Tuukka Rask carried Bruins to pivotal Game 3 win vs. Islanders

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Tuukka Rask carried Bruins to pivotal Game 3 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Tuukka Rask is the reason why the Boston Bruins took a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders with an overtime victory in Game 3 on Thursday night.

The Bruins goalie made 28 saves on 29 shots in one of his best performances of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Brad Marchand scored the deciding goal 3:36 into overtime to secure a 2-1 win for the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum, but they wouldn't have survived to that point if Rask hadn't made two clutch saves on back-to-back Islanders scoring chances earlier in the OT period.

"He was rock solid," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Rask. 

Cassidy added: "(He) looked really good in overtime, was square to the shooters, any rebounds he was resetting. I thought on the penalty kill he held his ice when he had to. A lot of good things. I thought it was a great goaltending game by their guy and our guy, and that's why it was 1-1 entering overtime. That's what you expect in the playoffs."

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Just how important was Rask's performance in the win?

Well, he finished the game at 2.00 goals saved above expected, per Natural Stat Trick, which is an awesome number. That means the Islanders should've scored three goals instead of one based on the amount and quality of the shots and scoring chances they generated. 

Rask also made eight saves on nine high-danger shot attempts by the Islanders. Two of those stops came on breakaway opportunities for Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier. The B's also went to the penalty kill with just 2:15 left in regulation and Rask stood tall as the Islanders made a strong push for the winning goal.

The only goal Rask allowed wasn't his fault. It took Islanders center Mathew Barzal three whacks at the puck before it crossed the goal line to tie the score with 5:26 remaining in the third period. Barzal had enough time to get three whacks at the puck because Connor Clifton made the wrong play on the Isles center.

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Rask has posted a .922 save percentage and a 2.12 GAA through three games in Round 2. He's been even better during 5-on-5 action with a .944 save percentage and a 1.42 GAA. For the playoffs overall, Rask has a .934 save percentage and a 1.93 GAA in eight games, with a .944 save percentage and a 1.59 GAA at 5-on-5.

Simply put: Rask has played fantastic in this playoff run, and he's given the Bruins a chance to win all eight of their games. 

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Rask's health was a topic of discussion after Game 2 when he didn't seem to be moving great after some of the goals given up in the 4-3 overtime loss Monday night in Boston. He's battled a back injury throughout 2021 and missed a bunch of games during the regular season.

The 34-year-old netminder likely isn't at 100 percent health right now, but he was definitely moving better and tracking pucks better in Game 3. Both are encouraging signs for the Bruins.

"It's always good to have a little extra rest between the games, whether you're injured or not," Rask said. "The season has been very hectic overall. But as far as my health goes, as long as I'm out there it's good enough. That's, I guess, the only thing I can say. It didn't hurt to have those two days (off)."