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Sports

June 1, 2013

Goaltenders Vokoun, Rask hold key to East finals

(Continued)

Rask bounced back in Game 5, turning aside 28 of 29 shots as the Bruins moved on and perhaps obliterated any lingering doubts about their goaltender’s resilience.

“That Game 4 could’ve been a lot more devastating than it was,” coach Claude Julien said. “How he rebounded in Game 5 shows me that there’s no issues there.”

Of course, the high-flying Penguins have a way of creating issues. Pittsburgh peppering Evgeni Nabokhov and Craig Anderson into early exits a combined four times during the first two rounds while averaging 4.27 goals per game, the highest scoring average at this point in the playoffs in 20 years.

A highly efficient power play and a remarkably skilled roster led by former MVPs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin helps. Still, for all its considerable firepower, Pittsburgh is not invulnerable. The Penguins were similarly loaded three years ago when they ran into Montreal’s unheralded Jaroslav Halak in the second round. The then-24-year-old became impenetrable as the series wore on and the Canadiens won in seven games.

The memory of that stunning failure remains fresh and the Penguins are well aware Rask and Boston’s smothering defense could provide an even more impenetrable shell.

“We have to make (Rask) uncomfortable,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.

In the end, whichever goaltender finds his comfort zone is the one that will extend his team’s season into the first days of summer. It’s a ride Vokoun is intent on enjoying, one the oldest player on the Stanley Cup favorite thought may never come.

“This is what you play for,” he said. “It’s taken a long time to get here. Yeah there’s pressure but really it’s just about doing your job.

“That’s all I can do.”

So far, so good.

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