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Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Penguins in Game 1 06.01.13 at 10:46 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask

PITTSBURGH — Tuukka Rask’s first career playoff shutout came against the toughest offense he’s ever faced in the playoffs, as Rask blanked the Penguins in a 3-0 Bruins victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Rask stood tall for the B’s shutting down the Penguins’ high powered offense and keeping them quiet through four power plays, while Krejci scored in the first and third periods to give him seven goals this postseason and an NHL-leading 19 points.

Krejci’s first tally came a slapshot that went off of Paul Martin’s skate and past Tomas Vokoun, and he increased Boston’s lead by knocking in his own rebound in front in the third. Shortly after, Nathan Horton picked up his sixth of the playoffs to make it 3-0.

The game was by no means a clean contest, and the foul play was highlighted by a Matt Cooke hit from behind on Adam McQuaid in the second period. Cooke, who infamously elbowed Marc Savard in 2011 and gave him concussion issues that have since ended his career, came in with speed and shoved McQuaid from behind, with the Boston defenseman going into the end boards head first. McQuaid left the game but eventually returned. Cooke was given a game misconduct for the hit and figures to face additional discipline.

Brad Marchand also turned in a rather dirty hit in the second period, shoving James Neal into the boards in front of the Pittsburgh bench. Marchand was given a two-minute minor for boarding, but given what a dangerous hit it was, Penguins fans were justified in wanting more punishment for Marchand.

The second period ended with a fracas that followed Sidney Crosby bumping Rask, with the situation culminating in Patrice Bergeron fighting Malkin in a heated bout.

The teams will next play Monday for Game 2 before the series returns to Boston.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Rask entered this series with mediocre numbers this postseason, but the B’s get past the Penguins it will likely be because he vaults himself into Conn Smythe consideration. Rask made 29 saves in the shutout, and while the Bruins definitely shouldn’t expect

- The B’s were saved by the bell in the first period, as the Penguins got big chances late. Their best chance came when an intentionally wide shot off the endboards yielded a rebound to Malkin in front, with Malkin’s bid going through the crease with just two seconds left. Furthermore, Johnny Boychuk appeared to hook Malkin in the chest in front on the play and got away with it.

- It was definitely a surprise to see Andrew Ference back in the lineup, but he made a positive impact in his return. Ference picked up the secondary assist on Krejci’s goal and also made it possible by driving to the net and bringing Martin with him. Without Martin there attempting to block the shot, Vokoun likely would have seen it cleanly and stopped it. Instead, it went off Martin’s foot and past the Pittsburgh netminder.

- It’s kind of an obvious note, but it’s big that the Bruins were able to get one of the first two games in Pittsburgh. At worst, they’ll head home split.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- Matt Cooke strikes again. The funny thing is that because his last suspension came in March of 2011, Cooke actually doesn’t qualify for repeat offender status. In order to be considered a repeat offender, one’s last suspension has to have occurred within the last 18 months, which in this case it did not. Of course, there’s no way Brendan Shanahan won’t consider the whole package with Cooke when deciding on his punishment.

Cooke would be a rather big loss for the Penguins, as he’s played well this postseason and is a big part of Pittsburgh’s bottom-six depth.

- It’s a method that worked, but it was interesting to see how sparingly Claude Julien used his fourth line early on. Daniel Paille played less than three minutes in the first period and a half, but he should be of more use in this series given his speed and defensive prowess. If Tyler Seguin really isn’t going to do anything (he had a pretty bad giveaway in the first period), it wouldn’t be crazy for Julien to consider putting Paille on the left wing of Chris Kelly’s line and move Rich Peverley back to right wing. Normally you wouldn’t want to mess with the Merlot Line, but if they aren’t going to play much, why not?

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Claude Julien on underdog role vs. Penguins: ‘Bring it on’ 05.28.13 at 2:03 pm ET
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Claude Julien says the Bruins aren't about to be afraid of the Penguins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Claude Julien has instilled a certain attitude with his Bruins.

Play fearless hockey in the playoffs and see what happens.

That’s why he was happy to hear how Tuukka Rask responded when asked about the big load he will carry into the series against the high-powered Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Rask said that he expects to carry a big load and always goes into a series thinking he is the best goalie. That attitude also matches what the experts are saying. If the Bruins are going to have a chance of upsetting the Penguins, Rask will need to play to his level and maybe above.

Rask is considered by all experts as the superior netminder in this series, far and above the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury.

“I think he answered it right because I’m one of those guys where you have to relish the challenges,” Julien said Tuesday as the Bruins returned to the ice as a team for the first time since eliminating the Rangers on Saturday evening. “You can’t fear them. Bring it on. And that’s what he’s telling you right now, ‘Bring it on. I’m ready for it.’ That’s what our whole team’s demeanor is going to be is like, ‘Hey, we know it’s a big challenge. Bring it on.’ We’re ready for it. We’ll give it everything we have and hopefully, that’ll be enough to win a series.

“I think there’s two teams here that know what’s at stake. They’re going to bring their best at us, and we’re hopefully going to do the same thing to them. And we know how we play and we know how they play and it’s going to be a matter of just seeing how it pans out.”

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Penguins front lines ‘a force to be reckoned with’ at 10:21 am ET
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Shawn Thornton

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.

The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.

“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”

Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. … You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”

Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.

“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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Claude Julien gives Tuukka Rask green light to ‘start laughing’ about Game 4 miscue 05.26.13 at 1:30 am ET
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Tuukka Rask can really laugh now about his stumble after eliminating the Rangers in five games. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

For all the great saves Henrik Lundqvist made on the Bruins throughout Game 5 Saturday at TD Garden, the one save that will be remembered the longest is the one made by Tuukka Rask on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway with just over 11 minutes left in the third period.

The Bruins were clinging to a 2-1 lead as Callahan was fed on a break through the neutral zone and had a clear path toward Rask. The Bruins goalie made the save, and Boston’s lead stood up in a 3-1 win over the Rangers in the clinching Game 5.

“Well, our goalie coach [Bob Essensa] told me after, I think it was Game 1 when he scored on that breakaway, that he never goes backhand,” Rask said. “So I was banking on him shooting and keeping it on the forehand. But he went backhand, and I just extended my leg and blocker there and made the save.”

Rask had faced just 17 shots through two periods before facing 12 in the third, including Callahan’s.

“That’s just staying mentally sharp,” Rask said. “But you have to know something is going to happen, and they’re going to throw everything they could at you and going to try to get that change to tie the game. You know, today it happened to be a breakaway and I just wanted to make one or two big saves in the third and hopefully keep that lead. And today we succeeded.”

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Tuukka Rask on butt stumble: ‘Some days it sucks to be a goalie’ 05.24.13 at 5:04 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask falls backward for his now infamous "butt stumble" in Game 4 Thursday. (AP)

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez gave us the “Butt Fumble” against the Patriots last Thanksgiving. Tuukka Rask gave us the “Butt Stumble” right across the Hudson River from MetLife Stadium Thurday night.

Say this much for Rask: He has a lot of patience with repetitive questions from reporters and he has a good sense of humor.

Both were on display Friday after practice at TD Garden as he was peppered with more questions about Thursday’s “Butt Stumble on Broadway” and the Bruins losing Game 4 in overtime just like they did three years ago when the collapse began in Philadelphia.

“I don’t even want to compare,” Rask said when asked whether the bizarre loss in overtime in Game 4 Thursday night reminded him of 2010. “It’s a totally different team. We beat Philly out the next year, 4-0. We won the Cup. Lots of things have happened. As we’ve said all along, we don’t like to look in the past or too much ahead. We like to live in the moment and focus on the task.”

And as for the blooper of all hockey bloopers this season?

“I think you either decide to cry about it or have a sense of humor about it and that’s it,” Rask said. “You just have to move on. You let in goals and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of goals you let in, it’s still a goal. Some days it sucks to be a goalie.”

Rask lost an edge and fell backwards in the second period Thursday night, allowing Carl Hagelin‘s weak backhander to slide past him and into the net to cut Boston’s 2-0 lead in half.

“Yeah, I saw it. I saw it many times in my head, too,” Rask said. “I mean, you can either cry about it or laugh about it and I decided it’s better to have a sense of humor and laugh about it. Tough break, those happen. But to be honest, I think throughout the years I’ve been pretty good in making those ‘Not-so Top 10 lists’ so there we are again.”

Enough of the funny business. As for the serious business of getting ready for Game 5 Saturday night, Rask said he liked what he saw at the 30-minute up-tempo practice Friday at TD Garden.

“Absolutely,” Rask said. “It’s been a few days since we had a full team practice on an off day and today we just want to make everybody’s minds are in the right place and we’re making crisp passes and executing the plays and keeping it short and sharp, and that’s what it was.”

Does he wish he could play right away and not wait until Saturday?

“No, no. I’ll take my rest,” Rask said.

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Pierre McGuire on M&M: ‘Virtually impossible play’ for Dougie Hamilton on game-ending goal at 2:01 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to offer his take on the Bruins’ mistake-prone 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers in Game 4.

McGuire said that despite Thursday’s loss, the Bruins have no reason to be overly concerned.

“The Rangers can talk about coming back and getting back in this series. It’s still 3-1. You’re going back to Boston for Game 5. And the Rangers should have lost that game last night,” McGuire said. “The Boston Bruins were full of self-inflicted wounds. … Whether it’s Tuukka Rask falling down, Tuukka and Zdeno Chara not communicating properly, Chara being lackadaisical with the puck. But also give credit where credit’s due: Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal, especially in overtime.

“So, stuff’s going to happen in a playoff series. You can’t overreact to it. You move along, you play Game 5 and you do a good job in front of your fan base.”

McGuire said he was impressed with how the Bruins started Thursday’s game, and surprised at the Rangers’ performance.

“The Rangers had nothing going on,” he said. “The first period I was shocked. The shots were 12-4 and I was absolutely shocked at how the Rangers were playing. Jaromir Jagr in particular really had a sense of urgency to start that game. You could see the Bruins were jumping. They were good. They were ready to play.”

Added McGuire: “I’m telling you guys straight up: People are underplaying how deep Boston is and how good Boston is. And the Rangers don’t match up particularly well with Boston. That’s just the reality because they don’t have the same kind of offensive depth, especially down the middle, as they have in Boston. That’s a big problem. You compound that with the Chara factor and with the [Johnny] Boychuk factor in terms of size. You’ve got some very big defensemen. Whatever offensive press you might have if you’re New York, it gets shut down pretty quick.”

Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton was beaten on the game-winning goal when Chris Kreider redirected a pass from Rick Nash past Rask in overtime. McGuire said Hamilton was in a tough spot.

“That play, by the way, you’ve got numbers back, you’re in a good position,” McGuire said. “I will say this, and I’m not trying to be overly defensive of the young player: You tell me, in this new NHL, what Hamilton’s supposed to do against a player that’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and can skate as fast as almost anybody in the league. That is a virtually impossible play. It’s a beautiful pass by Nash. And the only thing Hamilton could have done — and if he’s a little bit older, maybe he does do — he takes a penalty. … Because that is an unbelievably difficult play to defend. Because of the size of the man attacking the net, because of the speed of the man attacking the net, and because of the precision of the pass made by Rick Nash. That’s an unbelievable pass by Nash and a great finish by Kreider. This is something he’ll learn over time. In that situation you may just take a penalty. Just tackle the guy as he goes to the net.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘I had my problems with the officiating’ in Game 4 at 12:21 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley, in an interview with Mut & Merloni on Friday, talked about the B’s letdown that cost them Game 4 against the Rangers.

Of the Bruins’ many mistakes Thursday night, Brickley said Tuukka Rask‘s slip-up that allowed New York’s first goal was the biggest.

“The absolute critical moment in the game was the goal that Rask let in, the first goal of the game for the Rangers,” Brickley said. “Think about the situation: This is a knockout game, you have nothing going in terms of any kind of offensive attack — I think they had somewhere between seven, eight or nine shots on goal; maybe two quality scoring chances — down 2-0, the building’s dead, there’s no signs of believability from the New York Rangers. Then [Carl] Hagelin‘s little backhander eludes Tuukka Rask in a stumble. That was the absolute most critical point in the hockey game because all of a sudden the Rangers started to believe that they had a chance.”

Brickley also took issue with the officiating Thursday.

Said Brickley: “You knew you were in trouble when [Roman] Hamrlik gets the first penalty — that’s black and white, no-brainer, over the glass, delay of game. Then the next penalty comes to [Matt] Bartkowski. He gets locked up with [Ryan] Callahan. Callahan punches him in the head when they’re in separation. Bartkowski gives him a love tap to say, Hey, I’m aware of what just happened, and he’s the only one that gets the minor penalty. I said, Oh, this is going to be a tough night for me to analyze these officials and say that this is going to be OK. And you can even throw the [Jaromir] Jagr penalty in there — how late did that arm go up after the crowd reaction when he was trying to protect the puck in the neutral zone.

“I had my problems with the officiating. Can it be better? Absolutely. But it is what it is, and you’ve got to play through it.”

Another questionable decision came when Rangers forward Derick Brassard threw down his stick and gloves in hopes of fighting Brad Marchand, only to see Marchand skate away.

“I thought Brassard deserved a penalty in that situation,” Brickley said. “Marchand doing his job, getting under his skin. But I’ve seen it both ways. These are judgment calls.”

Dougie Hamilton was beaten on the game-winning goal by Chris Kreider. Brickley said how the 19-year-old defenseman responds will tell us a lot about his future.

“There was some good from Dougie last night and some not so good,” Brickley said. “On that game-winning goal, he’s not out of position. It’s a two-on-two and he’s fronting Kreider. He tries to get his stick right around the top of the circle knowing — and you heard the sound bite, he said, ‘I knew exactly where he was going and what he was going to do.’ But he didn’t get his stick. And when he tried a second time to get it, it was too late and he allowed Kreider to get that inside position. It was a well-executed play, but the microscope is on him because it’s the game-winner.”

Added Brickley: “These are good lessons for a young player. You have to have the heartache and the disappointment in order to reach the levels that you expect to reach as a professional athlete. These are the growing pains that are good to experience. It’s how you bounce back that determines your character.”

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