UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The final two goals scored on his watch, into an empty Boston net, came with Tuukka Rask watching from the Bruins bench, the winningest goalie in Bruins history unable to do anything about stopping the Islanders’ torrential blue-and-orange storm.
Such was Rask’s last stand, possibly his final night ever in a Bruins uniform. Stoic and looking exhausted, he stood silently, bearing witness while his vacated net swallowed up shots by Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock en route to the Islanders’ 6-2 thrashing of the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum.
Rask, 34, doesn’t have a contract for next season. He also is uncertain about his health. He finally confirmed after the season-ending loss here he could be headed for surgery in the offseason, but cared not to talk about the nature of what ails him (bets remain that his trouble spot is lower back or hip, the latter possibly a labrum tear).
“I don’t want to get into that right now,” he said, noting the club’s full injury report will be made public soon enough. “We can talk about it then. I promise I’ll give you a full low-down then. I don’t think that needs to be the headline now.”
Rask made every one of the Bruins’ 11 starts this postseason, looked sharp and competent through most of the five-game thumping of the Capitals, but clearly labored at times vs. the Islanders. He again was not at his best in the Game 6 closeout, but not even a net blocked simultaneously by Hall of Famers Ken Dryden and Martin Brodeur might have deterred the Islanders from going on to face the Lightning in the Cup semis.
The aggressive, opportunistic Islanders salted it away with a three-goal second period, two of those goals the product of blatant miscues by defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Rask also was to fault on one of them, a Brock Nelson strike at 12:39 that was the end result of a poor Rask pass attempt to defenseman Mike Reilly.
It again was a bad night for a depleted Boston backline — absent key defensemen Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller — and Rask was victimized by both his defensemen’s blunders and a couple of his own.
“I could have made a couple of more saves, definitely,” he said. “I should have made a few more saves, keep it tighter. Yeah, I didn’t do it today and, you know, the season ended.”
Where from here? No one knows. Or at least no one is saying, be it Rask himself or Bruins management. He does not have a contract in place for next season and is free to sign anywhere in the Original 32 as of July 28.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t have any thoughts right now. It’s a tough loss … sleep a few nights, have our exit meetings and start planning on the future.”
The loss was official at 10 p.m., the Uniondale crowd heading out to party like it was 1983, the last of the their heroes’ four straight Cup victories.
The Bruins as is tradition, lined up at center ice to shake hands of Islander players who outhustled, outchecked, outscored and out-goaltended them. Captain Patrice Bergeron took the lead in line.
“I think it speaks volumes of him,” said Bergeron, asked about Rask soldiering this postseason while dealing with injury. “He’s been doing it for many, many years now. He’s always been stepping up when needed and battling through things here and there. We knew that it wasn’t always easy at times for him with what he was dealing with. But kudos to him for wanting to be there for us.”
Rask stood fifth in the handshake line, appropriately behind veteran David Krejci, likewise an unrestricted free agent who also might have played his final game for the Bruins.
“Listen, it wasn’t good enough to win,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, asked what he felt of Rask’s performance. “But neither we were we. So this wasn’t on Tuukka. You lose Millers and the Carlos, guys who play minutes for you … other people in the lineup have to pick them up, have to do their job. Whether that’s the forwards scoring more goals or the goalie keeping the puck out of the net better, or we defend better … it’s a mix of all those things …of course he could have been better …”
But, added Cassidy, the Bruins mismanaged pucks and put Rask in bad spots. Repeatedly. Particularly over the last three games of the series, all losses.
“So this is a team loss,” he said. “All the way down the line. Certainly we could have used more scoring out of people. You can do the math on that. I thought our power play was good, gave us some opportunities … ”
All in all, too much soft ice surrender to the Islanders, too many goals allowed, not enough scored.
“If you’re going to give up three of our goals,” reminded Cassidy, “then you better be scoring five. And we weren’t able to do that.”
Finished with the handshake line, Bergeron made his way to the door leading to the Boston dressing room. He wanted to shake each and every hand of his teammates. He’ll see most of them again when training camp begins in September. The likes of Rask and Krejci, who knows?
Brad Marchand was first to shake Bergeron’s hand and head down the tunnel at 10:03 p.m. Then it was Rask, followed by Krejci. And then a few more handshakes and goodnight for a final time at Nassau Coliseum.
“So it’s disappointing,” said Rask. “But I battled, I tried … and just fell short.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.