It’s never been Tuukka Rask’s modus operandi to throw anyone under the bus.
Although the Bruins suffered a 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders Thursday night at TD Garden, their third game in four nights, Rask was all about accentuating the positive. The goalie deftly handled questions about his mounting frustration in net, as well as the 34 shots he stopped against the Islanders, a potential first-round playoff opponent.
“They’re pretty smart,’’ Rask said. “They make those plays, too, in the tight areas and they fight for rebounds and get some traffic in front. So they’re a talented offensive team.’’
The loss knocked the Bruins out of first place in the Northeast Division and dropped them to fourth in the Eastern Conference rankings.
“We’re going to battle hard,’’ said Rask.
The Islanders’ Josh Bailey made it 1-0 at 19:39 of the first period when he rifled a shot from the left point, and then answered Tyler Seguin’s tying power-play goal with a Charmin softie that caromed off Rask’s left skate and trickled across the goal line at 13:12 of the second.
“It doesn’t really matter if you’re first or eighth if you make the playoffs,’’ Rask reasoned. “We’ve been struggling every game now trying to get into that groove going into the playoffs, but we’re going to see where that takes us.’’
Fatigue seemed to take a toll on the Bruins at the outset of the second period. They were unable to match the energy level of the Islanders, and struggled to clear the puck out of their zone.
Certainly, that had to be frustrating to Rask during a stretch in which the Islanders outshot the hosts, 14-4, by the midway point of the period.
Asked if the puck was in his zone too much for his liking at the start of the second period, Rask replied, “Yeah, one or two times, I think that first or second shift — whatever it was — it was like two minutes out there.
“So I don’t think anybody likes that. Our [defensemen] couldn’t get a change and we just couldn’t get the puck deep. That’s not the ideal situation, but sometimes it happens. At least they didn’t score, so it was OK.’’
Again, Rask chose to focus on the positive aspects.
“We played a pretty solid first, but I don’t think that goal they got there [late in the first period] took any life out of us,’’ said Rask, whose record dropped to 17-7-4. “But at the start of the second, they just came out flying and the first shift there we spent about two minutes in our own end and it took some energy out of us, I think, but we battled back and got a goal.
“It was just not enough.’’
Especially after Bailey managed to score off Rask’s skate.
“I felt it hit me,’’ Rask said. “I thought it kind of stayed there and when I turned around it was too late. It was just one of those [goals]. I figured he was going high blocker and he kind of missed his shot a bit, that’s just my opinion. It’s just one of those unlucky bounces.’’
Making several big saves with only a loss to show for it had to add to Rask’s frustration.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but I think we don’t want to be too negative about it,’’ he said. “It was our third game in four nights and it was a back-to-back situation with travel, too.
“But you want to try to find the positive side. We tried hard, we battled hard, we had some chances. We just couldn’t get the goal. So it’s a loss still, and it hurts, but I don’t want to be too negative about it.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.