What occurred at the 8:39 mark of the second period Thursday night at Madison Square Garden was painful to watch for the Bruins and their fans.
Boston had just taken a 2-0 lead and the Rangers had only six shots on net in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Bruins had managed to take the air out of the historic arena and looked well on their way to a series sweep.
Then Tuukka Rask fell down.
Or caught his skate in a rut in the ice, as the goaltender put it.
Either way, it wasn’t pretty.
Rask’s tumble came as he tried to slide into position to make a stop on New York’s Carl Hagelin, who had come streaking into the Boston zone.
Hagelin’s shot was slowed by the stick of Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. But without his footing, Rask wound up with a front-row seat as the puck inched across the goal line.
“I saw [the replay],” said an upbeat Rask after Friday’s morning skate at TD Garden. “I saw it many times in my head, too.”
Rask, who said he had slipped in a similar way in practice a few times, made it clear he has the proper perspective.
“You can either cry about it, or laugh about it,” he said. “It’s better to have a sense of humor and laugh about it.
“It was a tough break. Those happen, and to be honest, I think throughout the years I’ve been pretty good at making those not-so-top-10 plays and here we are again.”
Hagelin’s goal resuscitated the Rangers and the crowd, and set in motion a comeback that resulted in a 4-3 overtime win and a Game 5 in Boston on Saturday.
“You know, in the playoffs you just have to move on after a good game or a bad game,” said Rask, who made 28 saves Thursday. “You’ve just got to focus on the next one.”
In a series where New York’s Henrik Lundqvist is the more heralded goaltender, Rask has been on his game.
In 11 starts this postseason, Rask is 7-4 and has a 2.33 goals-against average. He’s stopped 119 of 128 shots on net this series (.929 save percentage).
“There’s just something about [Rask],” said rookie defenseman Torey Krug, who has burst onto the scene with three goals and an assist in the series. “You look at him back there and he’s just so collected and it’s a good feeling as a defenseman, especially one like myself who takes a few risks trying to jump up in the play. I know he’s back there and he’s going to make a big save for me if I am caught out of position, so it’s a good feeling for me.”
Rask was asked to compare the 2010 Bruins team, which blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers, with this year’s squad, but he wouldn’t bite.
“I don’t even want to compare,” he said. “It’s a totally different team. We beat Philly the next year, 4-0, and went on to win the Cup, so lots of things have happened and we’ve said all along that we don’t want to look at the past too much. We like to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked if he had spoken to Rask following the morning skate.
“What do you want me to say?” Julien said. “Not really, not really. There’s not much you can say on those types of things. It’s things that happen. We know the impact it had. He lets one of those in and how many does he save for us? You kind of balance those things out. It becomes a non-issue.”
If Rask and the Bruins take care of business on Saturday, it will officially become a non-issue.
“You’ve just got to move on,” Rask said. “You let in goals and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what kind of goals you let in, they’re still goals. Just some days it [stinks] to be a goalie.
“It didn’t decide the game. It obviously gave them momentum, but it wasn’t like in overtime or anything. If we move on [in the playoffs], everybody forgets about it, but it’s not in the back of your head every day.”