EDMONTON, Alberta — Tuukka Rask emerged onto the ice, saying everything that needed to be said about the current state of the Bruins with each stride. Despite the presence of Malcolm Subban, and the assurances that the rookie would make his debut on this trip, it was Rask in net against the Oilers, desperation oozing out of every save.
It was the 15th consecutive start for Rask and his 24th in the team's last 25. The need for a win, for two points in the standings, could be read in each of those numbers, in the unyielding way the team has used its goaltender through the end of December, through January, through the first three weeks of February.
They could not risk the points. And so, Rask filled the crease once again.
"That was a management decision — we sat together and we made that decision," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
But the plan did not work the way the Bruins had hoped, as the team fell to the Oilers, 4-3, in a shootout that lasted 12 rounds and yielded not a single goal before Martin Marincin finally beat Rask to end it. Marincin, who went five hole on Rask seemingly losing the puck in the process, had not scored a single goal this season. He did then, giving the Oilers their first win over the Bruins since Oct. 17, 2000, a span of 13 losses.
It was the longest shootout in Bruins history, beating a nine-rounder in 2006-2007. Apprised of that, Rask said, "Was it? Would have been nice to win it. But I'd seen enough, so I decided to end it."
There was a bittersweet tone in his voice.
Before the game, Julien had said that his team needed to be desperate, a statement backed up by his use of Rask. Asked after the game whether his team had played like that desperate team, Julien said, "When you look at the outcome, it certainly doesn't look that way. I think there's a lot of frustration right now. The guys, everybody's feeling the heat. We feel it's been put on us, and it's up to us to work through this and find ways to overcome those kind of things. It's part of being a professional. It's part of the game. It's in there.
"So it's up to us. We have higher expectations in that dressing room, coaches and ourselves, we have higher expectations than what we've shown right now. So we're not going to hide behind disappointment and stand here and think that we're doing OK. We're underachieving right now and our team's got to get better. I still feel we've got the group in there to make it better so it's up to us to take charge."
They didn't do that early, coming out exactly as they had not against Calgary two nights prior. By the first intermission, Rask had given up two goals to the lowly Oilers – one to Nail Yakupov at 4:29, one to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 15:53 – while Subban sat at the end of the Bruins bench with his elbows leaning over the boards.
Though the Bruins would get one back, by Loui Eriksson on the power play with 19.1 seconds remaining in the first, the Oilers would bring their lead back to two with yet another power play goal. Going back to the game against the Flames, it was the third consecutive penalty kill on which the Bruins had allowed a goal.
"It was a frustrating night for a lot of reasons," Julien said. "Our penalty kill had been so good, made some real mental mistakes there and gave them some great opportunities. We know if you give them opportunities they'll score goals. So we adjusted after that and were better on the penalty kill."
The Bruins fought back, adding Reilly Smith's second goal in 20 games at 14:17 of the second and David Pastrnak's sixth of the season just 1:35 later. The game was tied, and would remain so until that ill-fated shootout, despite two point-blank opportunities for Milan Lucic, one in the third period and one in overtime.
They would get one point. But they wouldn't get anything else.
"We know it's going to be a fight til the end," Zdeno Chara said. "We are not a group that is going to give up. We are going to fight for every point, every game. We know we can get it together, like we did before. We showed that we can play much better, like we did in the second and third, we've just got to put those 60 minutes together."
So even though Rask started, even though the Bruins burned their starting goaltender yet again, they did not get what they were seeking. They added just that single point, and they know that isn't nearly enough.
There is the knowledge, too, that even though the Bruins went with the desperate move, using Rask yet again, it didn't fix their problems. It didn't get them a win.
Asked if he needed a rest over the team's next two games, as the Bruins head to St. Louis and Chicago, Rask said only, "No comment."