After the media dispersed to question another New York Ranger, Henrik Lundqvist let out a deep breath and hung his head before beginning to remove his gear in utter silence. In that instance, his body language summed up everything he experienced after 60 minutes of play—disappointment, frustration and fatigue. This loss hit him hard.
The New York Rangers allowed the Boston Bruins to score two goals in the third period to win 2-1 at Madison Square Garden last night, and take a 3-0 series lead. The game-winning goal by Daniel Paille took an unfortunate bounce that Lundqvist could not stop, and the puck found its way to the back of the net with a little more than three minutes left in the game. The opportunity for Paille came after Lundqvist made a header save that popped up in the air and landed to his glove side right in front of the net. Paille circled from behind the goal line and swatted at the puck with enough force that it propelled into the back on the net.
“The game is so fast so the difference between a goal and a save is so close,” said Lundqvist. “You wish you get that bounce on our side with three minutes to go, but they got it.”
Lundqvist is a smart enough player to know that teams make their own luck, and he credited Boston’s game-winning goal on their ability to sustain pressure and follow up on shots in the later minutes of the game. But knowing and accepting that fact doesn’t remove the sting of the play.
The ending truly doesn’t portray the outstanding play of Lundqvist, who made 32 saves and kept the Rangers in the game from the moment the puck dropped. Lundqvist faced odd man rushes and two breakaways, all of which he skillfully fought off. He used his stick, his glove and even his head to prevent the Bruins from gaining the lead, but he needed help on the other side of the ice and that he did not receive. Taylor Pyatt scored the lone goal for the Blueshirts, which was a redirection of Ryan McDonagh’s shot.
The reason the Bruins came away with the win is the team created opportunities through forechecking. They were strong on the puck and didn’t have much trouble gaining the zone. The Bruins also have a deep bench, where all four lines are highly skilled, mesh well and, are ultimately dangerous. The fourth line for the Bruins, which has been a topic of discussion for the team for quite some time due to the offensive abilities of Shawn Thornton, Paille and Gregory Campbell, were on the ice for both of the Bruins’ goals. Johnny Boychuk tied the game early in the third when he received a pass from Paille and ripped a shot from atop the blue line past Lundqvist who was screened on the play.
On the other hand, the Rangers, who have depth, are lucky if they are able to get two lines to produce. No matter the line combinations, which John Tortorella is known for switching up throughout the game, the Rangers still struggle to find the back of the net. They get opportunities, but they don’t make Bruins netminder Tuuka Rask work as much as they should.
Last night the Bruins also had fluidity to their game. They filled in open holes, created rushes and opportunities that focused on the player trailing the play, and their passing sequences were crisp and tape-to-tape. The Bruins’ knew where their linemates where and where they were going to be, and that gave them the power to create plays and tire the Rangers by making them move their feet. The Rangers didn’t pass as well as the Bruins. Sometimes it seemed as if they were relying on the old football Hail Mary play by just throwing the puck into open space and praying that the right color shirt would be there to receive it. All of these things prevented the Rangers from sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, which Torts credits as the reason for the team’s loss. Not to mention the two words that have every Ranger fan shudder with shame, power play. The Rangers’ weakest part of their game is the power play. No matter the unit on the ice, the Rangers cannot produce on the man-advantage. In last night’s game the Rangers received two power play opportunities, but had nothing to show for it.
The Rangers also suffered some blows to their manpower throughout the game. Chris Kreider fell to the ice, clearly in pain, after being hit in the face by Tyler Seguin’s stick in the third period, and six minutes later Carl Hagelin suffered the same fate. Hagelin missed a few shifts before returning to the ice sporting butterfly stitches on his upper lip. But according to Torts, the big blow was losing Anton Stralman, who didn’t play a single minute of the third period due to an undisclosed injury he seemed to have suffered after taking a big hit by Milan Lucic. Tortorella and the Rangers can only hope Stralman, who has been playing strong hockey this postseason, will be healthy enough to play Game 4.
For the Blueshirts every game is now a must-win. Traditionally the Rangers seem to fare better in high-pressure situations, so it will be interesting to see Thursday night’s outcome.
“It’s one game,” Ryan Callahan said.”We have to win one game at home then go from there. That’s the only way we can look at it now.”
Tortorella continues to have confidence that his team will pick up their game and come to play Thursday stating, “I have full faith in our athletes.”
The Rangers can only look ahead to Thursday’s game where they will fight to avoid a sweep and earn a win on home ice in order to stay in the race for the coveted Stanley Cup.