When the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon, the New York Rangers had a chance to clinch first place in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division crown by gaining one point in their Original Six matchup against the Boston Bruins. But, unfortunately for the Blueshirts, Tim Thomas and the rest of defending Stanley Cup Champions had their own agenda of clinching the Northeast Division. And they did just that by beating the Rangers, in regulation, 2-1.
“You don’t go into a game thinking about one point,” Rangers center Brad Richards said. “It would have been nice to win. We all know what’s at stake, but we’ve got three games left in the season to continue what we want to do here.”
Although the Rangers weren’t able to come away with a point – and will have to wait until Tuesday for another opportunity to clinch top spot – the team played well, but were unable to figure out a way to get the puck past Thomas, even though the Blueshirts outshot the Bruins 34-21.
“Thomas was the difference,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said after the game. “He made some key saves at key times. It’s the type of game, these games against the Boston.
“It’s just that one little mistake and the puck goes into the net. These are hard games, but I have no problem with the way we played tonight.”
The Blueshirts started the game off strong, finishing their forechecks and controlling the puck in the offensive zone. A little over four minutes into the period Marian Gaborik gave Rangers’ fans hope when he notched his 40th goal of the season on a breakaway. It is the third time in his career that he has reached the 40-goal mark.
After Zdeno Chara’s rebound ricocheted off his teammate Jordan Caron and toward center ice, Gaborik used his speed to gather the puck, spilt the Bruins’ defense and fire a slap shot between Thomas’ pads.
That was the only time Thomas would allow the puck to find its way between the pipes.
“It was a gritty, hard game. They got good goaltending, and we did, too,” mused the Rangers’ Brian Boyle. “It was a good matchup. A little bit of an inch here or there and that’s how the game is decided.
“It sucks to lose, but we battled and didn’t give up tonight.”
The Rangers went into the second period with the lead, but it wouldn’t last long. Four minutes in and Dennis Seidenberg, who was back in the lineup after missing two games, ripped a shot from the blue line that found its way past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Chara and Brad Marchand received the assists.
About eight minutes later, the Bruins would capitalize on a man advantage, as Michael Del Zotto was in the penalty box for interference, and a turnover by Dan Girardi in his own zone led to the eventual game winner.
Patrice Bergeron notched the goal after Tyler Seguin intercepted a pass behind the net. Seguin fed Bergeron who was able to slide the puck under Lundqvist’s pads. The goal marked the first time the Bruins were able to score on the power play against the Rangers this season.
The Rangers, who were able to convert on the power play in recent games, went 0-for-3 last night, even when they have 22 seconds with a two-man advantage.
With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Blueshirts will need to find a way to remain consistent and create more opportunities on the power play.
While the Rangers were disappointed with the loss, and their inability to solve Thomas in their third period as they fired 19 shots on goal, the players continued to focus on the things they did well.
“I thought we played a solid game,” said captain Ryan Callahan. “We made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. We had a couple of chances ourselves.
“It was a tight game out there,” he added. “There wasn’t much going either way, and at the end of the day the end up putting one more away than we do.”
Tortorella was also in decent spirits after the game because he liked the effort and intensity he saw in his team last night.
“If we play like this we will win our games. We will find a way to win our games,” he said. “Tonight we didn’t but I think we did a lot of good things.”
The Rangers look to continue playing their style of hockey and iron out the kinks in their game when the take on the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night.