Thursday night was not like most nights at TD Garden for Bruins lifer Tuukka Rask.
“You know, it was [emotional],” the 34-year-old Rask said of his 2022 debut. “It was very much out of the normal, I guess, the way I was feeling before the game. It was great to see the fans’ support. The best fans.”
One night after a victory over the Canadiens ended with ‘We want Tuukka’ chants, Rask’s night started with an extended round of applause and ‘Tuuuuuu’ choruses with his introduction in the B’s starting lineup. And when the puck dropped on the game itself, Rask looked to be his normally poised self on the way on a 25-of-27 win.
“In terms of just tracking the puck, playing the game, and stopping the puck, I’d say he looked like old Tuukka,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. “Got tested late. Obviously spent a lot of time in our room with the penalties and the empty net, but good for him. Glad to see him come through. I think the guys played hard for him, especially when we needed to down the stretch.”
“Oh man, I was so happy to have him back,” David Pastrnak said. “You have no idea. I was ready to leave it all there for him.”
For Rask, the game was mostly pain free. It’s the first time he’s been able to say that since before the 2020 playoff bubble. Dealing with hip issues since then, the worst pain for Rask over the last year plus would come when it would have to readjust and drop down into the butterfly on a deflection or redirect. Flexing out to his right in those instances caused the most discomfort.
On Thursday, it was all weapons available.
“A hundred percent,” Rask said of his arsenal. “100 percent. Like even though it wasn’t killing me in every single game last year, it’s always in the back of your head that certain movements are limited. And now when you don’t have that, like in the first I think I had like two or three kick saves to the right and then in the third there was that wraparound where I kind of extended. Some stuff like that last year. it was totally out of the question.
“So it’s great to feel that I have the ability to move forward both ways.”
It was probably about as good a first game in over half a month that Rask could’ve asked for, all things considered. It was a slow build in terms of first-period shots against, but Rask had to stop two breakaway chances in the middle frame from the Flyers’ Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson, and then had an absolute grind of a finish for the final half of the third period.
“I felt like I was home, basically,” Rask offered. “The start wasn’t the easiest, you know, there’s no shots for the first. I don’t know how many minutes. But luckily, there was a couple feel-good shots and then you kind of get yourself in it. You know, obviously, if the start would have been like those two goals — a deflection and whatever double backdoor — you know, [if] those are your first two shots, then you’re like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s like, you know.'”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 3-2 win over Philly…