Bruins’ Tuukka Rask stars in NHL playoffs just as goalie he took over for did in 2011

BOSTON – Just imagine what Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas chat about when the present and past Boston Bruins goalies, and friends, have time to talk.

Perhaps they discuss what it’s like to stop shot after shot at the most important time of the season.

But Rask isn’t saying.

“It’s between him and me,” he said Sunday.

In 2011, Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL post-season when he posted a 16-9 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. He led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup title since 1972 in a seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks.

Rask’s numbers this year are even better—a 13-5 record, 1.73 GAA and .944 save percentage. And the Bruins are three wins away from another championship, tied 1-1 with the Chicago Blackhawks heading into Game 3 on Monday night.

The 39-year-old Thomas took this season off after the NHL lockout then was traded to the New York Islanders and has stayed away from the game. After three full seasons as his teammate, Rask inherited the job.

“Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him,” coach Claude Julien said Sunday. “Tuukka’s done an outstanding job. To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”

In the Eastern Conference finals, Rask allowed just only goals in four games as Boston swept the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the finals against Chicago, Rask has allowed five goals so far, but kept Game 2 close when he stopped 18 shots in the first period of the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime win.

“I always feel like I’m in a zone,” Rask said, “nothing different, just another game. My job is really easy, or really simple, not easy—to stop the puck.”


THIRD TIME’S NOT A CHARM: The Chicago Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup finals without winning Game 3 of their other three series this post-season.

They get another chance, their last one, Monday night against the Boston Bruins after splitting the first two games.

“I think when you’re at home the first two games, sometimes you get a little bit too comfortable,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said. “Then you come on the road, maybe it’s like a rude awakening when you come and play on the road. We’ve had three series to figure that out, learn it.”

Chicago lost Game 3 in the first round 3-2 to Minnesota but won the best-of-seven series in five games. It lost to Detroit in Game 3 of the next series 3-1, then won the last three games to win it in seven. And it won its first two games at home against Los Angeles, lost the next one 3-1, and won the next two to take the series in five games.

“In L.A., maybe we were comfortable with the situation coming off two nice wins. I thought Detroit got our attention after Game 2. It was one of those games (that) could have gone either way,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s got to be our approach going into (Monday’s) game, desperate, something to prove.”

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GOOD TIMING: Daniel Paille’s winner in Game 2 was the first overtime goal of his eight-year NHL career but his second winner of the 2013 NHL playoffs.

Paille scored 13:48 into overtime Saturday night to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory and even the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals at one game apiece. He also scored the winner in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third period.

The pair of winners matches Paille’s total from his last 246 regular-season games.

“It feels great to score the overtime goal,” Paille said after arriving on Sunday in Boston, where Game 3 will be played Monday night. “I think we’re a bit relieved now that after that slow start we were able to accomplish a split, and we’re coming back here for a good series.”

Paille also assisted on Boston’s other goal, by Chris Kelly with 5:02 left in the second period. That snapped a slump for Kelly, who had not scored a goal in 22 regular- and post-season games dating to April 17.


FATHER AND SON: Popeye Jones played one of his 11 NBA seasons as a forward with the Boston Celtics in 1998-99, averaging 3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18 games. His son is better at hockey.

On Monday night, Seth Jones will be in the building where his father spent one injury-plagued season. The son is one of the top draft prospects scheduled to attend Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. The teams split the first two games in Chicago.

Jones, a defenceman with Portland of the Western Hockey League, is the possible No. 1 pick in the draft on June 30. Others scheduled to be at the game are two players with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, centre Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Jonathan Drouin, and defenceman Darnell Nurse of Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.

This is the 20th year in which draft prospects attend the Stanley Cup finals. Six players in the current series have been in those groups—Boston’s Wade Redden in 1995, Nathan Horton in 2003, Tyler Seguin in 2010 and Dougie Hamilton in 2011 and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews in 2006 and Patrick Kane in 2007.


ICE SCRAPINGS: Boston’s 2-1 win Saturday night was the first overtime victory by a road team in the last 10 playoff overtime games. … The 26 overtime games in the 2013 playoffs are tied for second-most in NHL history. Two more would match the 1993 total. … Boston coach Claude Julien said centre Gregory Campbell, sidelined for the post-season after breaking his right leg in Game 3 against the Penguins, will be with the team for the remaining games. “He’s part of our family,” Julien said. “When we go back to Chicago (for Game 5), it will be the same thing.”