With 62 total points on the season, and one game in hand, the Rangers head into Saturday’s matinee against the Bruins standing first in the Eastern Conference. After an abundance of moves in the offseason, including the acquisition of star center Brad Richards from free agency, the Rangers have proven themselves to be a supreme powerhouse in the NHL.
On the other hand, Boston, who is in the middle of a tough stretch of games, came back to TD Garden after going 2-2 on the road, hoping to carry over their third period magic from Thursday night’s win in New Jersey.
Tuukka Rask, who is having a tremendous season in net, started for the Bruins. Opposing Rask in net was longtime Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who is once again putting together a Vezina-worthy campaign.
Before the game, Coach Claude Julien spoke with the media, and discussed what the Bruins must do when playing against New York: “Play the best game we can. Its about knowing this other team is going to be coming at us hard and we got to be able to push back and hopefully we go hard at them. And the similarities are there- if both teams play their types of game, like I said it’s going to be a real exciting game today.”
The Bruins opened the game with a bang. Effective puck position by the second line for an entire shift helped create numerous chances; Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and recently returned Brad Marchand had the exact type of shift you want to start a game.
A Brandon Dubinsky roughing minor gave the Bruins the game’s first power play, but both units failed to put one past netminder Lundqvist. Marian Gaborik also went to the box for a tripping penalty, but the Bruins were unable to capitalize on this man-advantage as well.
The first period ended in typical Bruins-Rangers fashion, the score knotted at zero, the shot total 9-8 in Boston’s favor.
After offensive pressure by the Bruins, a loose puck squirted free to Rangers forward Ryan Callahan, who rushed up the ice and was able to beat Rask short-side, with a wicked wrist shot. Dennis Seidenberg was the lone defenseman back for Boston, but could not thwart the odd-man rush. Rask had a good view of the puck, and probably wants that one back as it’s a save he usually makes.
Trying to regain his team’s energy, Shawn Thornton squared off with gritty Rangers forward Mike Rupp; the two vets exchanged (and landed) numerous punches before Thornton scored the takedown.
The fight certainly had its affect, as shortly thereafter the Bruins were able to tie the game at one. Andrew Ference scored on a beautiful backhand, after tape-to-tape passes by David Krejci and Milan Lucic pulled the goaltender Lundqvist out of position. It was a nice work by Ference joining the rush, giving the Bruins forwards more options in the offensive zone.
The Rangers reclaimed the lead with 5 minutes left in the Second period, as Marian Gaborik scored on a rocket of a slap shot. Carl Hagelin tried to set up Gaborik for the one-timer, and while the puck was indeed partially deflected, the Slovakian sniper was still able to roof the bouncing biscuit, a very skilled play by a very skilled player.
Back and forth we went as a heavy wrist shot by Adam McQuaid snuck past Lundqvist short side, Chris Kelly did a terrific job screening the netminder; Rich Peverley and Ference recorded the assists on the play.
The third period began with the score knotted at two.
The Rangers got a big power play midway through the third, but stout penalty killing by Dan Paille, Peverley, and the rest of the special teams unit kept the score tied at one.
The Bruins were able to kill off another third period Rangers power play, sending the game into overtime.
In OT, Andrew Ference — who was having a terrific, multipoint game to this point — got called for a major charging penalty. The power play ran for the remainder of the shortened period, giving the Rangers a dynamite chance to seal victory.
While the likes of Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg, Bergeron and Kelly able to use stout penalty kill work to reject a majority of the chances, with just 3.6 seconds left in OT, a loose puck squirted free to Gaborik, who backhanded it home for the victory.
At day’s end the Rangers, who have played one more game than their Boston rival, sit in first place of the Eastern Conference with a two-point lead over the Bruins.
From The Room