Tuukka Rask did not receive enough satisfaction by whacking his stick on the post. As Rask skated toward the bench, seconds after allowing the deciding goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis Thursday at TD Garden, the goalie smashed his stick onto the ice several more times before disappearing down the tunnel.
Rask wasn’t just steamed about the shootout strikes by Derek Roy and Alex Steen. Rask was still angry about the long-distance dribbler in the first period — a roller that wasn’t going fast enough to be pulled over in a school zone — that somehow trickled between his pads to tie the game at 1-1.
“I gave up that worst goal of my career probably there,” Rask said. “That got them back in the game. We battled back, 2-2. We played a [heck] of a third, too. Just couldn’t score that winning goal. Then in the shootout, I couldn’t stop the pucks.”
Two nights earlier, Rask had turned back a season-high 43 shots to steal the Bruins a two-point decision over the Rangers. Rask punched out a handful of pucks that should have been New York goals.
So, it was a shock to Rask and his teammates to see such a stoppable shot end up in the Boston net. Roy had flipped a long-distance shot on goal that ticked off Chris Kelly’s stick. The puck then rolled through Johnny Boychuk’s legs.
The puck approached Rask with the velocity of a mini-golf putt. Every goalie knows to put the paddle down and close up the pads. Rask did neither, and paid for it.
“It was coming so slow,” Rask said. “I saw it all the time. I figured I’d go paddle down so the guy beside me didn’t get a whack at it. Obviously, I didn’t go paddle down. I guess I blame my small pads.”
Rask’s uncharacteristic error might have been the only aberration in a hard-nosed, well-played 65 minutes of ice-bag hockey. Both teams drove pucks deep. They finished their checks. They created scoring chances. They hit everything that moved.
“It was a playoff game. Exactly,” said St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock. “It was very disciplined. I think both teams really respected each other, but it was really a hard game. It was physical in a way. Not running over each other, but it was physical in a way where there was a lot of weight and heavy play out there. I think for a lot of guys, this was very demanding.”
It was the type of game that would have satisfied both teams had the result been a 2-2 tie. Instead, Patrice Bergeron was the only Bruin to score on Jaroslav Halak in the shootout. David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, and Kelly came up short, which left the Bruins with one very unsatisfying point.
“I just find that when a game is played so well like that, it’s a lot easier if both teams could have walked out of here saying it was a hard-fought game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams would have been happy. Right now, you come out of there more or less feeling like you’ve lost the game. In my mind, we played well enough to win. Those are tough — whatever, if you want to call it a loss — to take, because I thought we deserved a lot better.”
The primary improvements took place on defense. Because of injuries to Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid, the Bruins rolled out four defensemen who were either in Providence or juniors last year at this time. Kevan Miller was playing in his first NHL game.
The baby-faced Bruins were also coming off a different kind of shootout — the O.K. Corral kind. But instead of submitting a repeat leaky effort of the game in New York, the Bruins tightened everything up around Rask. The only other goal the Blues scored was at 16:04 of the second period. After David Backes won an offensive-zone faceoff against Milan Lucic and pulled the puck back to Kevin Shattenkirk, the St. Louis captain went to the front of the net. Backes was in position to tip Shattenkirk’s shot past Rask to give the Blues a 2-1 lead.
“We didn’t give too many odd-man rushes,” Rask said. “We boxed out guys pretty well today and didn’t give them second opportunities. Overall, chipping pucks out and chipping pucks in was really good.”
The Bruins got goals from their bottom-six forwards. Gregory Campbell scored his first goal of the season at 18:20 of the first to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. At 18:41 of the second, Carl Soderberg snapped a bead over Halak’s glove, tying the game at 2-2.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played a good, solid 60 minutes like that,” Julien said. “With the circumstances, we had some young guys back there who played extremely well tonight. You could see St. Louis trying to come at us hard, hopefully to force our young guys to make mistakes. But they were solid. They made some real good plays. I was really proud of our back end tonight.”