By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
33 is off to a great start for Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask.
Celebrating his birthday with a start on Philadelphia ice, the Boston netminder stopped all 36 shots thrown his way for his fifth shutout of the season (and the 50th of his NHL career), and a 2-0 final that snapped the Flyers’ nine-game winning streak.
Peppered for 12 shots in the opening 20 minutes of play, Rask’s best stop of the opening frame came on a shorthanded two-on-one that left Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny shaking his head in disbelief, and there would be more Philly headshakes to come.
Hit with another 12 shots in the second period, Rask once again stood tall, and was finally given some offensive support by way of Matt Grzelcyk’s power-play goal through the Flyers’ Carter Hart at the 18:39 mark of the period. And the goal was Grzelcyk’s fourth of the season, setting a new career-high for the Charlestown, Mass. native.
It’s also worth noting that the Grzelcyk tally may not have been without an incredible individual effort from Charlie Coyle to get back and breakup a would-be two-on-one opportunity from the Flyers after misplaying the puck at the other end.
The third period came with more of the same for Rask, who turned aside another 12 looks from the Flyers, including a brilliant late-game stop on Ivan Provorov. Perhaps most importantly, Rask got another goal of support in the final frame, with Patrice Bergeron’s 31st of the season, scored with 5:20 remaining in the game, serving as the much-needed pressure relief valve.
The third period as a whole seemed to be just what Rask and the Bruins needed, actually, with the Black and Gold playing a damn-near perfect road third period and against a team that entered action with wins in 25 of their 34 home games to date.
Rask was certainly helped by the team in front of him, too, as the Boston penalty kill unit finished the night a perfect 3-for-3 (they also limited the Flyers to just five shots over that stretch) while the team finished with 12 blocks and 23 hits.
Defenseman Connor Clifton made his return to the Boston lineup after missing the last 28 contests due to an upper-body injury (not a concussion, according to Clifton) and finished with five hits and a block in 12:44 of action.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy also threw his lines in a blender midway through this contest, too, moving Ondrej Kase to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, bumping David Pastrnak down to a second line with David Krejci and Sean Kuraly, and moving Nick Ritchie to the left of a third line with Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk.
With the win, the Bruins are the first team in the NHL to reach the 100-point mark, and have now hit that mark in all three of Cassidy’s full seasons behind the Boston bench. (There’s still another 12 games to go this season.)
The Bruins will head to Buffalo for a Friday night head-to-head with the Sabres.