On Monday at TD Garden, Carolina coach Kirk Muller needed to glimpse only four Bruins shots to determine that his goaltender was not fit to see any more pucks.
Less than eight minutes into his worknight, Justin Peters had swapped his mask for a baseball cap.
The Hurricanes were down two goals because of some JV goaltending from Peters. Rich Peverley snapped a shot on goal that ticked off Peters’s glove and bounced behind the net. Before Peters could recover, Peverley had whipped around the cage, picked up the puck, and tucked it over the line to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 3:51.
Four minutes later, Gregory Campbell curled around the net and flipped a backhander on goal. Instead of placing his paddle on the ice to stop the shot, Peters didn’t get his stick flush. Before he knew where the puck ended up, Brad Marchand had crashed the crease, found the garbage, and made it a 2-0 game.
At the other end, Tuukka Rask faced far more challenging shots. The difference was that Rask, in an 18-save period, had kept every puck out.
“If he doesn’t stop the puck, we’re behind in the game,” Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after the 6-2 win. “You know how the game changes once the team is up. They sit back.
“So we got lucky in the first. We converted on those chances, but if we had fallen behind, it would have been tough to come back.”
Rask is in the Vezina Trophy conversation as the NHL’s best goalie. He is 17-6-4 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. Rask has been consistent all season, but in his last three starts, he has elevated his game even more.
Last Thursday against New Jersey, Rask stuffed the Devils on all 40 shots to record his third shutout of the season. Two days later, only two bad bounces (one off Matt Bartkowski, the second off Seidenberg) resulted in a pair of Montreal goals.
In his most recent start, Rask was money when it counted — in the first period, when the Hurricanes pushed their hardest. When it was still 0-0 and the Bruins’ defensive-zone coverage was slack, Rask made his best save.
First, Dougie Hamilton got caught up ice. Then, Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic engaged Jordan Staal in a race for the puck. Staal beat both of them, which created a two-on-zero rush. Zac Dalpe took a cross-crease pass from Jiri Tlusty and should have buried his shot. But Rask pushed from right to left and kicked out Dalpe’s bid.
Just like that, Rask covered up his teammates’ mistakes.
“We turned it over a couple too many times,” Rask said. “The biggest thing is just doing the job you’re supposed to do, and not trying to do another guy’s job, because then everything just falls down.
“I think that’s what our focus has to be in the future, just trying to be compact out there and protect the net. That’s a big thing — trusting one another and being confident.”
Given Rask’s shutout of New Jersey, it’s a good bet he’ll be back in the net Wednesday at the Prudential Center. The Bruins play again Thursday at home against the Islanders, but Anton Khudobin could give Rask a rest that night.
After that, the Bruins will have eight regular-season games remaining. Khudobin could give Rask a breather in two or three. But the Bruins will want to give Rask every chance to stay in the groove heading into the playoffs.
Swedish center Carl Soderberg is nearing a deal to join the Bruins, according to multiple reports. In his weekly afternoon interview on “The Sports Hub,’’ team president Cam Neely was optimistic about Soderberg joining the team. Neely referred to the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound Soderberg as a big body who can skate. Although the Bruins lack depth at center with Patrice Bergeron sidelined with a concussion, Neely told 98.5, “I think we’d like to try him [Soderberg] on the wing first and see if he’s comfortable there.” . . . The Bruins signed prospect Seth Griffith to a three-year entry-level contract. The forward was a fifth-round selection in 2012. This season, Griffith has 33 goals and 48 assists in 54 games for London (OHL). The 20-year-old will most likely begin his pro career in Providence in 2013-14.