After a dramatic, last-second 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks Thursday, the Bruins landed atop the Eastern Conference, tied with Pittsburgh and Toronto with 14 points apiece.
The Bruins’ team defense is one reason for their early success. They have given up only 13 goals in nine games, the lowest total in the NHL. Colorado has allowed 14 after Friday’s 4-2 win over Carolina.
But goalie Tuukka Rask is surely the primary reason. He is third in the NHL in save percentage at .957, fourth in goals-against average at 1.26, and tied for third in wins with six.
After stopping 38 of 39 shots from the Shark sharpshooters, he drew praise from all corners of the locker room, and even the locker room down the hall.
“Their goalie obviously played well,’’ said Patrick Marleau, who scored the Sharks’ lone goal, “and made a lot of key saves for them. We threw a lot of rubber at him.’’
The Sharks outshot the Bruins, 39-17, the biggest gap since the Bruins were outshot, 45-21, in a 4-1 win over the Sabres Dec. 10, 2007.
Rask had his first day off Wednesday against Buffalo, when Chad Johnson took over. So he had four days between games, which he allowed was a different approach after playing each of the first seven games.
“But at the end of the day,’’ said Rask, “it’s just if you’re mentally ready, it’s going to be all good.’’
While the Bruins were traveling home from Buffalo, the Sharks were already in town. The Buffalo-San Jose double was the first of 17 back-to-back sets on the schedule for Boston.
“We never want to use excuses, but we weren’t as good in back-to-backs,’’ said Jarome Iginla . “When you’re the team waiting, you always want to come out and jump on them, and we got jumped on in the first period.
“San Jose had an opportunity to wait and they’re playing really well and they used it to their advantage.
“They came out there, were fast, they kept it very high-tempo. It took us to the second to kind of push back and do some of the things that we wanted, getting a little bit more physical and getting more zone time.’’
Third in line
When Iginla scored his first goal of the season Thursday, he bumped his scoring line to one goal and four assists, but he has more work to do to catch his linemates, the team’s scoring leaders.
David Krejci (2-8—10) has points in eight of the nine games and is 2-6—8 in the last six. Milan Lucic (5-5—10) has points in seven of the nine games.
Finding a way
Coach Claude Julien and many players were ready to acknowledge, sort of, that the Sharks were the sharper team, especially in the first period. But they also said it’s important for the Bruins to figure out how to win games like that.
“Overall, it becomes one of those things where you enjoy the fact that your team found a way to win and never quit,’’ said Julien. “I’m not going to stand here and say we were the better team but we were the team that won.’’
“You want to try to be a good team, and teams try to find ways to win in different ways,’’ said Lucic. “It was one of those where we really, really had to grind it out.’’
“Tuukka made some huge stops, especially in the first period and also in the second to keep us in it. We’ve got some momentum right now, and hopefully we can finish off these three [games] in four [days] on a positive note.’’
Scott hearing Oct. 31
Sabres enforcer John Scott, who concussed Bruins winger Loui Eriksson with a hit to the head Wednesday in Buffalo, will have a hearing Oct. 31 with the NHL Department of Player Safety. Scott is suspended until the hearing . . . The Bruins did not practice Friday and will play their third game in four days Saturday night at TD Garden. The opponent, the New Jersey Devils, lost to the Canucks in a shootout Thursday and have won just once this season. Former Boston College star Cory Schneider appears to have moved into the No. 1 spot in goal for the Devils, but it is veteran Martin Brodeur who will start against the Bruins . . . The Bruins announced Friday that Bobby Robins was removed from the injured/nonroster player designation and waived for the purpose of assignment to AHL Providence. The 32-year-old forward injured his knee in an exhibition game Sept. 17.