March 2, 2011

Rask's return to form highlights B's perfect road trip

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. (Getty)

Following a six-game road trip in which his team ran the table, Bruins coach Claude Julien is undoubtedly a happy camper.

 En route to bumping their road record up to 22-7-4, the best in the NHL, the Black and Gold got four victories on the road swing from a netminder who couldn't buy a win at the start of the season.

 "It was good for him to hold us in there, 'cause we looked like a real tired team tonight," Julien said of Tuukka Rask, following his 33-save shutout performance in a 1-0 win over the Senators on Tuesday night.

 "We've done a lot of miles in the last few days and it's obviously caught up to us. I thought our guys got a little better as the game went on, but we found a way to win and, at the end of the night, you take the two points."

 After notching just two wins in the first three months of the season, Rask finally seems to be on a bit of a roll. The 23-year-old goaltender has won four-straight contests and five of the last six.

 "For him, It's great," Julien said. "He's had a tough start to the season and the win-loss column has not been in his favor. Lately, he's been doing a lot better. Obviously his game has been getting better and the shutout tonight is something I'm sure is going to help his confidence."

 Things started out shaky for the Bruins, as the Senators -- just a day removed from completing a full-fledged fire sale -- controlled play throughout most of the opening frame, outshooting their visitors 10-6 in the process.

 "It wasn't pretty for the team and it wasn't pretty sometimes for me either," said Rask, who thought he was bouncing around a bit too much at the start of the tilt. "But we got the job done and 6-0 on the road is a great thing."

 Beleaguered by a stretch of three games in four nights, one that saw them travel from Vancouver to Edmonton and then Ottawa, the B's were understandably a bit sluggish.

 "Well it's the sixth game on the road and we've been traveling," Rask said after the win. "Not to make excuses, but guys were tired. We didn't have the legs and we didn't have the jump we had in the last two games. It's always a grind and you can't just quit. You've got to battle through it."

 Battle through it helped the team accomplish a feat no Bruins squad has in quite some time.

 Not since 1972, when Boston last captured the Stanley Cup, have the B's reeled off six-straight victories within one road trip.

 Despite the significance of the moment, a first in nearly four decades, Julien was just happy to see his squad in a groove, and is looking forward to a battle with the Southeast Division leading Bolts on Thursday night.

 "I think we've always believed in those guys and it's just a matter of putting it together," he said. "We've talked about consistency, and when you win six in a row, to me that's consistency. We've had some real big challenges along the way. We wanted to win this game tonight and set ourselves up for a real good match on Thursday against Tampa Bay at home, and we've got that now."