Tuukka Rask rebounds to earn victory in home opener
Even after Jaroslav Halak’s shutout in Buffalo, Bruce Cassidy was almost certain he was using Tuukka Rask for the home opener.
Small steps for his No. 1 netminder: He played the whole game.
Rask didn’t make highlight-reel saves, but he got the win, allowing three goals on 31 shots. After admitting to three softies in Washington last Wednesday, he didn’t give up an easy one on Monday. Two were screens, one a scramble.
“Tuukka was good,” said Cassidy, who has a few days to decide on his starter for Thursday’s game against Edmonton.
“The second goal looks ugly,” said Cassidy, referring to a Ryan Dzingel slapper that wormed its way through Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara and hit Rask’s glove on the way in — with the Bruins icing only four skaters because of a bad change.
“The whole thing was a mess,” Cassidy said. “It looked like a bit of a flash screen. He made some big saves, he came out to absorb some traffic out around the net. He was more engaged in the game, willing to play the puck. I thought he was good. Good bounce-back game for him.”
Rask also channeled his inner Tim Thomas when he bodychecked a Senator on his way through the crease. Defenseman John Moore came to Rask’s defense.
“You have half a second to make that decision,” Rask said. “When you don’t get there, it looks ugly. Lucky I disrupted him with the play. He hit me. I guess I hit him. He couldn’t get out of the way.”
Chris Wagner didn’t see his first goal as a Bruin go in.
“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “We kind of work on that high tip in practice a lot, so it’s nice to see it pay off in a game.”
The Walpole native, who scored seven times last year between Anaheim and the New York Islanders, scored in his first game at TD Garden as a Bruin. He did so after he was a healthy scratch in Buffalo.
“I got plenty of texts already,” said Wagner, who signed a two-year deal in July. “Going to have to take a couple hours to respond to them.”
Taking Joakim Nordstrom’s spot as a fourth line left wing, he threw three hits in 12:57 of ice time and was effective on a line with center Sean Kuraly and his old pal from the South Shore Kings, Noel Acciari. The pair spent a 35-second shift together as penalty-killers.
The Bruins, officially, were 3 for 3 while shorthanded, including 1:16 of a 5-on-3 kill. But they allowed a 5-on-4 goal at 12:13 of the second, which pulled the Senators within 3-2.
Why was David Pastrnak on the bench, leaving the B’s without a fifth skater?
“You had to ask, right?” Cassidy said. “You had to ask.”
Cassidy called for Bergeron’s line, and went to say a few words to Anders Bjork about his previous shift.
“Probably should have let that go to the assistant coaches,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t realize he wasn’t out there.”
Pastrnak said he thought he heard “Kuraly,” not “Bergy.” By the time he jumped on the ice, Dzingel’s slapper from outside the circle had wormed its way through Bergeron, Chara, and Rask.
“Definitely my bad,” said Pastrnak, whose three-zone game was otherwise strong. “Maybe I lost a little focus.”
In his NHL debut, in front of what seemed like an entire section of fans, Ottawa rookie Brady Tkachuk threw three hits and was minus-1 in 14:33.
The son of Medford’s Keith Tkachuk and former Boston University winger rode with center Matt Duchene and right wing Dzingel on Ottawa’s first line, an assignment befitting his draft status (fourth overall last June).
He earned the respect of David Backes, who knew about the young prospect from St. Louis during his years as a standout with the Blues (2007-16).
“He finished a few hits hard,” said Backes, who plays a similar rough-and-tumble game. “I was impressed by him. He went to the net hard, and his helmet came off. With his lack of flow [hair], that wasn’t a great look.”
Ottawa goaltender Mike Condon, from Holliston, was an ace in Montreal’s 5-1 win over the Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic. His TD Garden debut didn’t go as well.
The Belmont Hill grad, who went undrafted out of Princeton, allowed five goals on 29 shots. He had his teammates coming to his defense, mostly after the game.
“You can’t blame anything on that guy,” defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. “We all love him — came up with some big stops for us there, and a few other unlucky ones, too. Nothing on him at all. It’s a team effort. . . . We’re going to give up the odd chance, and for the most part, you know Mike and Andy [Craig Anderson] are there for us.”
On the power play
Matt Grzelcyk had 24 giveaways in 61 games as a rookie. He had three in the first period of the home opener, though no goals came of it. He also had trouble springing teammates for zone-entry passes on the power play.
The second-year defenseman entered this home opener with more responsibility than last year, when the Charlestown native was trying to make the roster as a third-pairing defenseman. Lately, he has been in charge of running the first power play unit in the absence of Torey Krug.
The Bruins were 1 for 2 on the power play.
“Yes and no,” Cassidy said, when asked if it was too big a job for Grzelcyk to replace Krug, who is expected to be out at least two to three more weeks with a left ankle injury.
“He wants to take control of it,” Cassidy said. “I thought early on there were a couple burps, but the ice was sticky tonight, for whatever reason. . . . He’ll get better as he goes along. Torey’s going to be back, but I think he’ll mind the store, so to speak, while he’s gone.”
Bruins home opener hat tricks, since 1967: Phil Esposito (Oct. 10, 1973), Rick Middleton (Oct. 7, 1976), Cam Neely (Oct. 7, 1995; christening the FleetCenter against the Isles), and Bergeron on Monday . . . Cassidy on the anti-Yankees chants that broke out after the Bruins had the game in hand: “I agree with that chant, by the way. I’m all for it. . . . I’m excited for the Red Sox. Obviously, all four teams have aspirations of winning. . . . I think we’re spoiled here.”