BOSTON (CBS) -- Tuukka Rask now has 540 starts in net for the Boston Bruins. His most recent one was a lot different than the others, the goaltender admitted Thursday night.
Rask said that it was an emotional experience as he made his long-awaited return for the Bruins on Thursday night, his first game in net for Boston in 218 days. The 34-year-old showed very little rust in his first game back from offseason hip surgery, stopping 25 of the 27 shots that the Philadelphia Flyers sent his way and helping Boston notch a 3-2 victory at TD Garden.
Simply put, Tuukka was Tuukka, and the Bruins are extremely happy to have the former Vezina winner back in the fold.
"Oh man, I was so happy to have him back," said Davis Pastrnak, who potted all three of Boston's goals for his 11th career hat trick. "I was ready to leave it all out there for him. I told him I'm gonna get a hat trick before the game and he didn't believe me. It's really good to have him back.
"He's one of my closest friends and I missed him, obviously," Pastrnak added. "He was outstanding, the saves he made. Great to have him back and I could be sitting here for 15 minutes talking about him. I have high praise for him."
"In terms of just tracking the puck and playing the game and stopping the puck, I'd say it looked like old Tuukka," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the victory. "Talking to him after, no issues with the surgery. A little bit sore in spots, but I think that's just from not playing for a while, just muscular. Conditioning, he said, was pretty good."
Cassidy noted that Rask was tested late in the game, as the Flyers looked to net the equalizer for much of the third period. Philadelphia had 45 seconds of five-on-three play with just under seven minutes remaining in the contest, followed by some power play time, and Rask turned away a pair of bids while his team was undermanned. He also stopped a Cam Atkinson backhanded breakaway attempt with just under three minutes to go.
Rask said that it wasn't easy to get into a rhythm Thursday night as the Flyers went over nine minutes without a shot to start the contest. He was tested just six times in the opening frame.
But as the game went on, he felt more and more comfortable. The emotions surrounding the return dissipated as the game progressed, and Tuukka was just doing Tuukka things by the end of it.
"It felt like I was home, basically," he said.
Rask said his hip felt 100 percent better than it did when he last played for the Bruins, all the way back on June 9 in Boston's postseason-ending loss to the Islanders. He didn't feel any pain as he shifted in the crease, and he felt great after making a few kick saves late in the first period. He was elated when he was able to extend to reject a wrap-around attempt in the third period, something he said was "totally out of the question" late last season.
"It was great to feel that I had the ability to move both ways," he said.
The best feeling, though, was the one Rask got from being back with his boys. The Bruins are on a hot streak right now, so smiles are prevalent in the Boston dressing room. But the smiles were a little bit bigger with Rask now back in the mix.
"The biggest motivation is to play with the group I played with my whole career and have another chance to win," Rask said. "That's about it."
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