Tuukka Rask has been called a lot of things over the years.
Now you can add hustler to the list.
Two days off between Game 2 and Thursday’s Game 3 of the Bruins’ second-round series against the New York Islanders allowed for more talk about Rask’s physical health, especially after he looked a little wobbly on a couple goals he allowed in the overtime loss in Game 2 on Monday.
Heck, Rask had planted the seeds about his potential injury several times in the past couple weeks, including dodging a question about his health in a postgame press conference during the first round against Washington and acknowledging he was possibly nursing something during a local radio show.
But after Rask stopped 28 shots, including five in overtime, in a 2-1 win in Game 3, it’s obvious that whatever’s ailing Rask isn’t affecting him that much. If talk about him possibly being banged up gave the Islanders a false sense of hope, though, then Rask should continue to talk it up.
“It’s always good to have a little extra rest between the games I guess, no matter if you’re injured or not,” Rask said after the win Thursday gave Boston a 2-1 edge in the series. “I think the season has been very hectic overall. But you know, as far as my health goes, I guess as long I’m out there it’s good enough. That’s I guess the only thing I can say. But it didn’t hurt to have those two days.”
For about 55 minutes, it was Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov hogging the spotlight, despite the Bruins leading from 5:52 of the first period through 14:34 of the third. The New York netminder was zoned in and giving up none of his net. He made 38 saves on 39 shots before overtime.
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Meanwhile, Rask was clearly in the Islanders’ heads. They were either looking for the perfect play to beat the potentially damaged goaltender or were just psyched out by the fact that he’d barely allowed more than a few non-tipped goals through seven games of these playoffs. When Anthony Beauvillier stared head-on at an open goal the size of the Charles River and decided to pass, you knew Rask had them where he wanted them.
However, the Islanders finally solved Rask — with a Mathew Barzal third-effort goal from about two inches out after the Bruins let the Islanders center off his leash. And then it was Boston’s puck-stopper’s turn to save the day.
Rask got the Bruins into overtime and then made Barzal and Jordan Eberle weep rather than celebrate with some great saves from in tight. The Bruins were using overtime to practice icing the puck (although that might’ve been their best strategy without Brandon Carlo in the lineup), and the Islanders were using the extra period for target practice.
How demoralizing it must’ve been when Brad Marchand’s seemingly harmless shot from the left wall eluded Varlamov for the game-winner. It must’ve been equally painful for the Islanders to know they might’ve lost to an injured goalie. Or is Rask just scamming them?
Regardless of the truth, right now he’s beating New York and has the Bruins halfway through to the NHL semifinals. The Islanders might be wise to block out any chatter that might be making its way to their dressing room and assume they’re facing “peak Rask” if they want to have a chance to even make this a long series.