By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Washington Capitals started their third different goaltender on Wednesday night in Game 3. The Boston Bruins started Tuukka Rask for the third straight game and for the 96th time of his career.
The matchup was lopsided on paper. On ice, it was ... much more even than anyone could have rightfully anticipated. At least for the first four periods.
Of course, the game ended on a big-time gaffe from Ilya Samsonov, who abandoned a puck behind his net for Justin Schultz to retrieve, only for Craig Smith to swoop in and ruin what was an otherwise excellent night for the 24-year-old Russian netminder.
Alas, this is not a story about Ilya Samsonov. No, this is a story about Tuukka Rask, the beloved pinata of choice for Boston sports fans whenever things go wrong for the local hockey team.
Rask stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced in this double-overtime victory, picking up the 53rd playoff win of his career. In doing so, he tied Gerry Cheevers for the most playoff wins in Bruins franchise history.
Moments after the Capitals took a 2-1 lead late in the second period, Rask stopped consecutive shots from close range by Conor Sheary to prevent the hole from getting any deeper. And in the third period, after Brad Marchand tied the game at 2-2, Rask stood tall (and got an assist from his red iron friends) as the Capitals outshot Boston 8-0 for the final 8 minutes of regulation.
While the Bruins dominated the overtime period (with 17 shots on goal), Rask had to be sharp for the Capitals' five shots, and then three more in double-OT, before the game was won.
It was another solid game from the 34-year-old Finn, who's stopped 100 of the 108 shots sent his way for a .926 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average through three games.
But those were the positives. Whenever the puck ends up in the net, it's a real downer. So in the sake of record keeping, here's a continuation of the made-up-but-also-perfectly-excellent Craig Anderson Scale that we dusted off for Game 2. As a reminder, a grade of 0 means the goaltender was blameless, a grade of 3 means Craig Anderson would have saved it, and a grade of 5 means the goaltender really, really, really screwed up.
First Goal: Scored by Alex Ovechkin on a power play, assisted by Anthony Mantha
Blame Scale: 0 out of 5
The real shame in this one is that moments before this goal, the Capitals tried to make essentially the same pass. But Rask poke-checked Conor Sheary's pass to Alex Ovechkin, and the Bruins gained possession.
Alas, Charlie McAvoy wiped out, and literally 3 seconds later, the puck was in the net. Rask had less than zero chance at the quick one-timer from Ovechkin, who is a moderately gifted goal scorer.
Second Goal: Scored by Nick Dowd, assisted by Garnet Hathaway
Blame Scale: 1 out of 5
Honestly, giving the 1 is probably a little bit harsh. But giving a bunch of zeroes is boring, and technically saves can be made, even if only by good placement and better luck. (The original Anderson Scale, born in 2015, dubbed grades of 1 as goals where "A Vezina-Caliber Goalie Would Have Saved It." In this case, a Very Lucky Vezina-Caliber Goalie Would Have Saved It.)
On this one, a complete and total cluster at the blue line led to a turnover. David Pastrnak lost the puck, Brandon Carlo was beaten on the loose puck by Hathaway, and the Capitals once again struck quickly. With Carlo well out of position, Dowd attacked the net, Hathaway hit him with a perfect pass past the skate of Mike Reilly, and Dowd tipped it to the side of Rask's glove hand.
It's closer to the zero side of the 1, but again, for the sake of keeping things spicy, we'll throw the 1 grade on there. That gives Rask a grade of 0.5 on his two goals allowed, which means he's getting better.
Here are his grades from each of the first three games of the series. As a reminder, this is completely made up by me and it has zero bearing on anything. It is the Craig Anderson Scale.
Game 1: 1.3
Game 2: 1.0
Game 3: 0.5
Rask has always been under an intense microscope here in Boston. The criticism heaped upon him -- fair, unfair, and in between -- comes with the territory of being the goaltender in a hockey-crazed market. So there's no way to resolve all (or any?) of that.
But for the sake of evaluating him on the goals he's allowed in this series, Rask has really been about as good as anyone could have hoped or reasonably expected. He's certainly been a major point of strength.
Here are a few scattered thoughts left over from that double-overtime victory in Game 3.
--Ilya Samsonov was very impressive, but do you want his Craig Anderson Grade? Do you? It's a 2.0. Getting hit with the wretched 5 grade for that game-winner will do that. (He gets a 1 on the Taylor Smith video game/Matrix goal, and a 0 on Brad Marchand's mid-air bat.)
I don't know what the Capitals' goaltending situation is right now, but the trio of Vitek Vanecek, Anderson and Samsonov has a combined .923 save percentage. That's a ... lot better than most folks would have anticipated. Is it for real, or will the dam eventually break? That is, obviously, the series-defining question.
--There may have only been about 5,000 fans in attendance for the first playoff game in Boston in two years, but you never would have known it from the roar when Marchand tied the game. That distinct eruption of elation from the Garden crowd sounded awfully similar to the ones that come with a full house.
It's obviously been a very long 14 months. Moments like that -- with even better ones potentially on the horizon -- provide some hope that things are about to get a lot better.
--This was so stupid:
Penalties are always going to happen. Penalties like that one don't ever need to happen. And that one led to the game-tying goal on the resulting penalty. Sheesh!
--A pretty great PLAYOFF HOCKEY moment played out in overtime between Marchand and Hathaway. After Hathaway threw a sneaky-dirty and definitely-dangerous low bridge on Marchand ...
... Marchand didn't complain to the refs or lose his mind. He simply went eye-for-an-eye and sent Hathaway on a ride:
It hasn't been a perfect series for Marchand. He's taken three penalties, with his Game 3 post-whistle infraction being a carbon copy of his Game 2 post-whistle penalty, only he didn't take any Capitals to the box with him.
But, well, he scored the game-winner in Game 2, and he tied Game 3 late, and the man is fully engaged with his emotions in this series.
--Speaking of taking matters into one's own hands, the city of Boston will always appreciate a goaltender throwing rights at a guy who maybe wasn't all that careful while barreling into the crease. In fact, if Tim Thomas' Vancouver series was any indication, Bruins fans may be willing to trade off a few bad goals and maybe even a grisly overtime gaffe in exchange for some mid-game punches from the netminder. Tuukka's agent might want to get on that one.
--Flopping is going to happen. Part of the game. But to flail so wildly when David Pastrnak is in a real bad place after he probably should have drawn a penalty? That's just disrespectful, Brenden Dillon.
Have some respect for the flop game, man. Pick your spots. Tsk tsk.
--Bruce Cassidy said he didn't have an update on Pastrnak's health on Thursday, and considering he played after the board crash, there's reason to believe he'll be fine. He will, though, need to be better. He made a lazy line change on an early power play which led to a shorthanded bid for Tom Wilson, he was late to pick up on a clear from Bergeron that could have led to a 1-on-1 situation in open ice, he iced a puck with nobody pressuring him, and he couldn't bury any of his team-leading nine shots, including a point blank bid in overtime that Samsonov smothered with his left arm.
Pastrnak does have a couple of primary assists in the series, so it's not entirely dire. But of course, the gifted goal scorer will need to score some goals.
--You've seen it a thousand times, but here's one more, because why not?
Gollllllly. That's rotten.
Maybe we'll see another goal like that in the remainder of this series, which is absolutely, unequivocally, without a doubt ending with a triple-overtime goal in Game 7.
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