The game was tied in the third period, a possible perfect road trip and first place on the line.
Tuukka Rask was just kicking it in the Bruins goal.
As Boston worked on a power play with the chance to grab the lead, Minnesota Wild penalty killers whisked the puck the length of the ice toward Rask.
The rookie goalie, just 15 games into his promising NHL career, dashed out and looked to catch the Wild on a line change – by kicking the puck 60 feet back up the ice.
You want relaxed? You want calm under pressure? How about a young goalie who goes into punt formation quicker than the Patriots.
No qualms, no worries. Just wins. Four of them in a row.
After David Krejci lofted a back-hand shot over Niklas Backstom to give the Bruins the advantage in the fourth round of the shootout, Rask swatted away a Chuck Kobasew shot and the Bruins were on their way back to Boston with a 2-1 win, a perfect road trip and first-place in the Northeast Division.
“I don’t think we played our best today, we didn’t get our legs going,” Rask told reporters after needing 28 saves to secure the win. “We didn’t play the way we want to play. It’s tough to play on the road, but you still have to dig deep, and find a way.”
Whether punting the puck, stopping the puck or taking away shooting angles, Rask has found his way and it has helped the Bruins move into first-place.
But it was not a completely bright night for Boston. Just three games after returning to the lineup Milan Lucic left the game after jamming his left knee late in the third period.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said Lucic will be examined back in Boston and his status could make or break the team’s Thanksgiving outlook.
While waiting to learn more, here’s what Bruins faithful can be thankful for as they make their way to the turkey.
JUST HOPE HE STOPS IT
A sluggish start resulted in the Bruins being outshot 11-2 in the opening period, in large measure the result of setting the Wild up with three early power play chances.
Boston was able to take a 1-0 lead on deflection goal by Byron Bitz, but only another strong effort by Rask kept Minnesota off the scoreboard until Andrew Ebbett deflected in a shot-pass from Kyle Brodziak during a Wild power play 10:23 into the second period.
“We weren’t as in synch tonight as we would have liked to have been,” Julien told reporters. “I thought we were sloppy. Not as determined as we have shown, but we found a way to win. But things even out, like those games a couple weeks ago where we played well and couldn’t come up with a win…They ran into a hot goal tender tonight.”
With Thomas recovering from a “minor injury”, Rask stepped between the pipes against the Islanders on Nov. 16. He yielded three goals to New York in a lackluster 4-1 loss, but has allowed only seven opposition goals in four subsequent games.
After securing Wednesday’s victory, Rask has a 4-1 record in his last five games, with a 1.94 goals-against-average and .929 save percentage over that stretch.
“He’s what you call a backup, but he’s not really a backup,” explained Julien to reporters. “He’s one of those franchise goaltenders. We’re fortunate right now to have two of those guys.”
As to what happens when Thomas (still considered day-to-day) is ready to return, is the type of problem Julien is thankful to have.
“It puts us in a position of strength, they play with a lot of confidence, so it’s an advantage for us” said Julien to reporters. “It gives one of our goaltenders a chance to rest, or in our case, heal.”
THE CURIOUS CASE OF CAL CLUTTERBUCK
Another yellow flag that the Bruins were in a sluggish state was the apparent disinterest in stepping up to Minnesota mega-pest Cal Clutterbuck early in the contest.
Skating in the same manner as a Sean Avery or Jarkko Ruuttu, Clutterbuck bring a mixture of amped physical play and an irritating get-under-your-skin persona. He led all skaters with six hits Wednesday and would seem to have been an early target for bruising by the Bruins.
But the B’s physical game seemed as off as most of their attack (hmm, think there might be a correlation). Yet, as with Avery, sometime ignoring the pest is the best policy.
Minnesota had a power play opportunity after the Bruins were whistled for having too many men on the ice and could have taken the lead, but Clutterbuck took a foolish charging penalty to end the Wild man-advantage.
In overtime, Dennis Wideman became entangled with Clutterbuck, who quickly dropped to the ice after being brushed with a high-stick. That’s what pests do.
Thanks to Rask, and some misfires by the Wild power play, the Bruins were able to shutdown the 4-on-3 disadvantage and take the game to the shootout.
Responding to the like of Clutterbuck is a tricky deal and the Bruins were able to walk that line with a positive result.
HOME COOKING IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER
Blake Wheeler, a native of Plymouth, Minnesota, had registered hat tricks in high school and college games at the Excel Energy Center, but through two periods his only appearance on the score sheet Wednesday was for an interference penalty that set up the power play during which the Wild tied the game.
Selected as the Bruins second shooter in the shootout, Wheeler made several dekes with the puck, but Backstrom made a left pad save to shutdown Wheelers’ attempt.
Wheeler finished the night with just a single shot on goal, not the homecoming he was looking for, but he was able to take two standings points and the Northeast Division lead with him as he left town.