NEW YORK – Through the first six minutes and 15 seconds of the game, it looked just a little too easy for the New York Rangers.
Two goals on four shots and a suspect goaltender at the Bruins side of the ice forced Boston coach Claude Julien to call an early timeout when Ruslan Fedotenko and Carl Hagelin each scored softies within 70 seconds.
From that point on, this matchup between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference became a lot more difficult for the Rangers (42-15-7, 91 points, 1st in East). Boston (38-23-3, 79 points, 2nd in East) outshot the Rangers 23-7 over the next 33:45, and tied the game on goals by Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron.
“We relied a little bit on goaltending,” said Brad Richards. “They’re a good team, they have a good game-plan against us, spreading us out in our own zone knowing we collapse. We might have been a little tired today.”
Marian Gaborik calmed some nerves 3:14 into the third period by banging in a rebound after being denied by Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (13 saves) on his initial attempt off a three-on-one break.
“It’s a huge part of his game this year,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Gaborik scoring from in tight. “He’s not swinging out, he’s playing in traffic. He’s played in traffic all year long. I haven’t gone through all his goals [on tape], but a number of them are just banging them in. He’s made a concerted effort to work on the details of his game offensively and defensively.”
After Boston’s David Krejci tied the game with 8:18 left, the Rangers answered immediately when Derek Stepan let loose just 39 seconds later. It was the backbreaker that allowed the Rangers to buckle in, play defense, block some shots, and escape a poor performance with two points and a 4-3 win over their rivals from Boston.
“We’ve always found a way to bounce back after a game we didn’t feel we were on top of it,” Stepan said. “I thought tonight we did a good job of coming out to a quick start. It was pretty even in the first, they took over in the second, and we found a way to rebound.”
“You’re not always going to be at your best, but this team always finds a way to get points. It shows the character and resiliency of this hockey club,” said Michael Del Zotto, who returned from a one-game absence due to a hip injury. “It’s a tough team, Stanley Cup, but these are four point games. It’s so nice to come out on top and separate ourselves and keep moving forward.”
The Rangers finish a stretch of three games in four days with seven out of a possible eight points, including the last three without captain Ryan Callahan (bruised foot).
“We got off to a good start [today], but they started playing with some desperation and got us back on our heels a little bit,” said Del Zotto. “They took control after that for quite a bit. Throughout all the momentum swings, we still found a way to get two points. That’s important for us.”
“Played a pretty good [first period], struggled territorially for most of the second, so we just wiped it clean and wanted to play a strong twenty minutes. I thought we played better, at least territorial-wise,” Tortorella said. “I thought we worked our ass off to try to find a way to win that hockey game.”
With the win, the Rangers move into first-place in the NHL, over the idle Canucks (90 points)
The Rangers have won nine of their last 11 games against Boston, including five straight dating to last year.
Marc Staal led the Rangers in ice time, at 24:28. It’s the second straight game he’s led the team in the stat.
POST-GAME AUDIO CLIPS: