Even after the most gut-punching of losses, hockey players and coaches find a way to spout positive, if not cliched, answers.
“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, following his club’s 4-3, double-overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their second-round series. “I’m certainly not going to jump on my goaltender.”
Julien’s goaltender, Tuukka Rask, didn’t give himself a free pass. The Finnish netminder was highly critical of his performance, as he allowed four goals on 33 shots.
“We played overall a good five-on-five (game) — pretty much dominated, had a lot of chances, couldn’t score,” said Rask. “But I was [expletive] today. Got to be better.”
After opening the scoring on a P.K. Subban power-play goal in the first period, the Canadiens pushed their lead to two early in the second. Montreal came in on an odd-man rush and, with the passing lane blocked off by a Boston defender, winger Rene Bourque was able to put a shot through Rask’s wickets.
The Bruins dominated the game from that point on, peppering Carey Price and knotting things up in the third on goals from Reilly Smith and Torey Krug. After Francis Bouillon restored Montreal’s lead, Johnny Boychuk tied things up in the closing minutes of regulation.
Boston outshot Montreal 14-6 in the first overtime period, but a combination of Price’s spectacular play and the B’s bad luck on countless close calls sent the game past the 80-minute mark.
“Yeah, we had a lot of bounces there,” Rask said of his team’s chances to bury the game-winner in overtime. “Could go either way, especially in the first overtime. It just went to the wrong way, I guess, on the goal line and stuff. I think as a team we deserved to win, but from a goalie’s standpoint [Carey] Price played a lot better than I did.”
Subban ended the affair 4:17 into the second overtime, again scoring from the point on the power play to give the Canadiens the victory in Game 1.
“It’s tough,” Rask said of losing the game while shorthanded, as Matt Bartkowski was in the box for holding Dale Weise. “I mean, you need your PK to step up. We did in the beginning and then those things happen and just a floater from the blue line and I can’t catch it. It sucks.”
Rask was asked if this was simply an off night for him between the pipes. The bronze medal-winning netminder — who made a number of dazzling stops of his own, including a jaw-dropping glove save on Tomas Plekanec in overtime — was quite matter of fact in his response.
“No, not an off night,” he said. “I made some saves, but I couldn’t make the game-savers as you say. So, go home and sleep and regroup.”
Down the other end of the rink, Price was able to make those game-savers. He finished the night with 48 stops on 51 shots.
“He’s a great goalie,” Rask said. “You got to work hard to get those goals. We got three. Should be enough to win.”
Three goals would’ve been enough for victory in each of Boston’s five games against the Red Wings in the first round. Rask and the B’s limited Detroit to just six goals in the series, which saw Rask finish the conference quarterfinals with a 1.16 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.
Those numbers took a hit Thursday.
“You suck, you suck,” Rask said when asked if the loss linger. “That’s it. What can I say? It’s the playoffs.”
There are certainly positives to take from Game 1 for Boston. They were able to erase two deficits in the third period against a team that almost never surrenders leads late. They controlled play throughout the third and the first overtime, outshooting Montreal 28-12 during that 40-minute stretch.
Nevertheless, there are areas in which they can be better in Game 2 on Saturday, and no one believes he has more room for improvement than Rask.
“That’s the only option,” Rask said when asked about looking forward to bouncing back. “We played a great game. We can’t change anything except we’ve got to kill those penalties and I’ve got to keep the puck out of my net. That’s the only change we need.”