The Bear Cave

September 16, 2009 9:22 AM

Rask Proves his Case in Preseason Opener

Tuukka Rask has spent each of the past two seasons in Providence with the hopes of some day locking up a spot in a National Hockey League crease. Although the Boston Bruins have yet to make a decision, Rask entered this year's training camp as the favorite to be Tim Thomas' backup for the 2009-10 season. On Tuesday night, the 22-year old looked to make his stock rise even more, as he got the starting nod in Boston's preseason opener against the New York Rangers. Rask finished the night with 31 saves, leading the Bruins to a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

The story of the first period was New York's inability to stay out of the penalty box, as the home team was whistled for four minors in a span of less than ten minutes. The first penalty of the evening went to Dane Byers, as he was sent off for hooking. Despite limited work on the power play in the first few days of training camp, the Bruins wasted little time in cashing in. Blake Wheeler gathered in a loose puck in the left circle, before sending a pass through the slot to Marco Sturm in the right circle. Sturm managed to find a seam in front of the crease, allowing him to slip a pass to Zach Hamill on the left side of the crease. Stephen Valiquette barely had any time to slide over for the Rangers, as Hamill tapped in the first marker of the preseason.

The next three man advantages weren't as successful for Boston, as Valiquette and the Rangers' penalty killers tightened up defensively. With the drastic advantage in power plays, it was only fitting that the Bruins would have a decided edge in shots on goal during the first period, at 14-5. Hamill's goal was the only one on the scoreboard after twenty minutes of play.

During the second period, the play began to shift in favor of the Rangers. Zdeno Chara and Andrew Bodnarchuk both received penalties for holding, but the Bruins kept their net empty with two solid kills. New York fired 14 shots on goal to Boston's eight during the middle frame, but neither side was able to light the lamp.

In the early stages of the third period, the Bruins doubled their lead with a second power play goal. Ales Kotalik was the guilty party for New York, as he earned a boarding penalty for a heavy hit on Brad Marchand. A little more than half way through the man advantage, Johnny Boychuk cycled the puck around the boards for Milan Lucic behind the cage. Lucic chased down the loose puck in the left corner, quickly spinning a pass into the slot for Max Sauve. The quick pass caught the Rangers off guard, as Sauve found himself alone in front of Matt Zaba. Last year's second round pick shifted from his forehand to his backhand, before sliding a shot through the netminder's pads.

Boston's backstop continued to play well throughout the contest, but with 9:55 remaining in regulation, the Rangers came up with an answer. Chris Drury lunged to keep the play alive at the right point, nudging the puck to Ales Kotalik at the edge of the circle. Kotalik looked around the offensive zone, before dishing a pass back to Alexei Semenov at the point. Semenov put a low shot on goal that Rask denied. However, the rebound kicked free for Christopher Higgins, who finished the play by scoring through Rask's five hole.

The final period was the closest of the three, as both teams came up with 13 shots on goal. The score remained 2-1 in favor of the Bruins as the clock began to tick down on New York. With 1:05 left, Ryan Callahan knocked over Tuukka Rask, picking up a penalty for goaltender interference, while ending all hopes for a Rangers' comeback.

Tuukka Rask was the star of the show in Boston's first preseason tilt, as he made 31 saves on 32 shots for the victory. The Rangers opted to split the game in half with their two netminders. Stephen Valiquette allowed one goal on 19 shots in the first half, but suffered the loss. Matt Zaba stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced in the second half, earning a no-decision.

The Boston Bruins are right back in action on Wednesday, as a second group of players will head to Toronto for a contest with the Maple Leafs. Face-off is scheduled for 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre.

Scoring Summary:
1. BOS Hamill (1) (Sturm, Wheeler) (PP) 7:30
3. BOS Sauve (1) (Lucic, Boychuk) (PP) 6:39
3. NYR Higgins (1) (Semenov, Kotalik) 10:05

Penalty Summary:
1. NYR Byers- Hooking 6:01
1. NYR Boyle- Hooking 9:16
1. NYR Semenov- Slashing 12:52
1. NYR Boyle- Holding 15:52
2. BOS Chara- Holding 6:17
2. BOS Bodnarchuk- Holding 17:08
3. NYR Kotalik- Boarding 5:14
3. NYR Callahan- Goaltender Interference 18:55

BOS Tuukka Rask (1-0-0): 32 shots, 31 saves
NYR Stephen Valiquette (0-1-0): 19 shots, 18 saves
NYR Matt Zaba (entered at 11:17 2nd): 16 shots, 15 saves

Shots on Goal:
BOS 14-8-13=36
NYR 5-14-13=32

Power Plays:
BOS 2-for-6
NYR 0-for-2

Three Stars of the Game:
1- BOS Tuukka Rask
2- BOS Zach Hamill
3- NYR Stephen Valiquette

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