On Rask besting Price, and their brewing rivalry

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Game 4 was Tuukka Rask’s best of this series, but he set the tone for it after Game 1.

Following Carey Price’s 48-save OT thriller — 12 saves shy of Patrick Roy’s franchise-record 60 in the ’94 playoffs — Rask laid down the gauntlet, so to speak, with this:

Rask wasn’t the best goalie on the ice that night, but he was hardly, y’know [rhymes with hit]. He allowed four goals on 33 shots, two of which came on the power play, and certainly couldn’t be blamed for the loss.

Thing was, Rask knew Price won the game for Montreal — in Boston, no less — and it ate at him. So on Thursday, the Finnish netminder decided to flip the script.

“We really needed this win. We knew that,” he said, per CSNNE. “It seemed like we were a little nervous and were squeezing our sticks at times, so hopefully this win helps us.

“I always just try to play my game, and hopefully it’s good enough to get the win. Tonight I was able to get the shutout.”

Rask became the first Bruins goalie to record a postseason shutout against the Habs in 10 years and, fittingly, did it at the Bell Center. It was his signature win of the series and the first time he’s posted a save percentage above .893; in the aftermath, it was suddenly the Canadiens talking about how they needed to make Rask’s life tougher, after days of listening to how the Bruins needed more traffic in front of Price.

“We’ve got to try to make life a little bit more difficult on Rask in front of the (Bruins) net,” Josh Gorges said, per the Montreal Gazette.

Earlier, I wrote this series could be a jumping off point for the Rask-Price rivalry, and it’s certainly shaping up that way. The two are reasonably close in age (Rask’s 27, Price is 26) and while Rask bested Price this season for the first-ever Vezina nomination between the two, it was Price that one-upped Rask at the Olympics, backstopping Canada to gold (while beating bronze medal-winning Finns along the way.)

And the best part? This series is nowhere close to being done. Boston and Montreal will definitely go to at least Game 6 and, given the razor-thin margin between the two (cumulative score of 11-10 in favor of Montreal, two games decided in OT), it’s fair to suggest Game 7 is in the cards.

For what’s arguably the best goaltending rivalry in the NHL right now, here’s hoping it goes the distance.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”