By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
You’ve heard it again and again: Tuukka Rask needed to steal a game for the Bruins to win their series against the Maple Leafs.
Through three games, you still were waiting for that game. Now, that’s not to say that the 32-year-old was the problem. Despite the 2-1 series deficit entering Game 4, he was largely fine. But he also wasn’t the solution that put the Bruins over the top in losses in Game 1 and Game 3. Rask had goals he would have liked to have back in both losses, too, be it William Nylander’s breakaway strike in Game 1 or Trevor Moore’s putaway that opened Toronto’s scoring in Game 3. Again, these didn’t kill the Bruins, but they didn’t help.
So with the Bruins on the verge of returning to Boston down three games to one, the point was hammered home once again: Rask needed to steal the Bruins a game before it was too late.
…Am I crazy for thinking that Rask finally did exactly that in a 38-save, 6-4 victory in Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena?
I know: On the surface, a goaltender doesn’t exactly steal a game that sees four lamp-lighters go through him. This is almost doubly true when factoring in that straight-up heinous Auston Matthews wrister Rask let sneak through him to squander Boston’s (first) two-goal lead just moments into the second period.
Auston Matthews rips one past Tuukka Rask. Tie game 2-2 early in the 2nd. pic.twitter.com/pjhzK5dXnY— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) April 18, 2019
But this game was anything but standard.
Especially if your view came from Boston’s defensive zone.
Out to a 2-0 lead just 6:38 into the game, the Bruins quickly saw this game completely flip upside down — and pinned in their own zone. From the 10:00 mark of the first period ’til the final horn, the Bruins were outshot a staggering 36 to 21. It was even worse if you take the first period as a whole out of the equation, as Toronto outshot Boston 30 to 17 over the final 40 minutes.
This got seriously ugly for the B’s at various stretches, too.
Things first seemed to hit the fan for the Bruins in a second period run that saw the Leafs fire seven straight shots on Rask over a 5:17 stretch. But Rask kept the Bruins in it, with no stop bigger than the kick-save he made on Connor Brown.
Given second life with another two-goal lead on the road, Rask made sure the Bruins avoided a late-period collapse, and allowed the Bruins to extend their lead to three by way of Zdeno Chara’s 60-foot shot scored 5:39 into the third period.
But then the Bruins actually had a worse stretch than their aforementioned second-period drought.
It was in the final frame that Toronto had a run of nine straight shots on Rask in just 2:12 of action, with goals from Matthews and Travis Dermott over that d-zone evisceration. It was in that 9-0 span that the Leafs made this a one-goal game and made it butt-clenching time for everybody with a B’s jersey, but Rask performed above his head during that run. In fact, it took that Dermott shot going off Noel Acciari’s hip for a killer, friendly-fire redirect to get Toronto within one goal.
(If you’re anything even resembling a rational human being, it’s impossible to kill Rask for that kind of bad bounce.)
Still, Rask’s work was not done, as he came through with last-minute stops on both John Tavares and Mitch Marner to preserve the Boston lead before Joakim Nordstrom’s last-second empty-net goal allowed the B’s to Houdini their way out of Toronto tied at 2-2.
The eye-test alone told you that this was a rough night for the Black and Gold’s defense.
The advanced eye told you that his was Boston’s most reckless night, as the Maple Leafs finished with 47 all-situation scoring chances against Rask. That’s the most the B’s have give up this season, six more than their previous season-high of 41 surrendered in the team’s Jan. 1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame.
In real time, it felt like it was about a billion to three.
But on this night, the difference was that Rask finally outclassed Andersen when things got tight. Enough to put the B’s in a position of actual strength with momentum and home-ice for the first time since before Game 1’s letdown.
How’s that for a steal?