BOSTON – The Boston Bruins aren’t going anywhere this season unless Tuukka Rask finds his game. Rask took a big step in the right direction by backstopping the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
The rested Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Lightning, who played Tuesday night in Buffalo, then withstood a third period push by the visitors.
Here are three quick hits on the game:
Rask was called on to make just 19 saves, but he came through with some beauties.
His stop on Nikita Kucherov, one of the NHL’s top snipers, in the final minute of the second period was probably his best.
“Those are the saves that people expect you to make,” Rask said.
“(If we lose) you talk about after the game, ‘He should’ve saved that to keep that lead’ and now you talk that it’s a timely save, so it’s always something you want to do, and you try to do, and hopefully more often than not you save those.”
“He helped himself big time tonight. That’s what we need,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s an imperfect game. We’re not going to be mistake-free every night. We’d like to correct some of those things, especially with a lead, but he was really good there. I’m sure it affected his confidence, too, between periods. It has to when you make big saves. It’s what you’re paid to do, right?”
McAVOY MUNCHES MINUTES
Even though the Bruins dressed seven defensemen, Charlie McAvoy, still three weeks from his 20th birthday, logged a game-high 28:11 on the ice while scoring a goal and an assist.
Is that too much ice time?
“I think that’s something you have to be mindful of,” Cassidy said. “Now, we don’t play until Saturday so if you’re going to do it, today’s the day. But, you’re playing against one of the best offensive teams in the league, so you’ve got to be a little more mindful of your matchups – especially when they split Kucherov and (Steven) Stamkos after the first (period), so now you want to make sure you don’t get exposed there with mismatches, and obviously everybody can play against everybody in this league, that’s why they’re here, but there’s certain ones you want to tilt towards in your favor.
“So, Charlie got a lot of work. And he’s an efficient player, he can handle it, but 28 (minutes) is a lot. So, we’ll have to take a look at that and try to get it to a more reasonable number, for sure.”
VATRANO STEPS UP
When you’re a fourth-liner looking to stay in the lineup every night, you do the kinds of things that Frank Vatrano did on Wednesday night.
First, he went after Cedric Paquette when the Lightning pest hit Torey Krug square on the numbers and ran him into the end boards early in the second period.
Vatrano cost the Bruins a power play, but standing up for a teammate is never a bad play and is something that teammates notice and appreciate.
“Frankie responds pretty well. Might take a power play away from us, but shows we’re not going to stand for it,’’ David Backes said.
Then, with the Bruins clinging to a one-goal lead late, Vatrano took a hard check from Paquette in front of the Boston bench, but not before making a smart play with the puck. Backes noticed that, too.
“He took a hit to make a play, advances the puck. (The Lightning are) worried about hitting bodies rather than scoring goals, and we end up with two points,’’ he said.
Vatrano came up from Providence a couple of seasons ago as a one-dimensional player — a shooter. His willingness lately to do more than just rip pucks at the net is going to help him stay in the NHL.