By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @ndrsn27
Coming into the game, the Bruins were just four points off the top spot in the MassMutual East Division and two points out of second. Facing their last non-playoff team of the season, the Bruins needed to take care of business to gear up for the upcoming playoff run. A slow start and sloppy play took the Bruins on a different path, however.
Despite the stakes for the Bruins being rather high, the first period of this one was rather uneventful. Neither team was able to break through, despite having one power-play each. Just over halfway into the first period, Matt Grzelcyk went to the box for holding, and with around 30 seconds left in the period, Morgan Barron went to the Rangers’ sin bin for a rare kneeing call against Taylor Hall.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen before the second period was Nick Ritchie being named the Seventh Man for the Bruins this season. After finishing the previous season on a pretty sour note, being sent to the dressing room early against the Lightning in the fourth game of last year’s second-round series, Ritchie worked on his skating game over the offseason and was a key factor in a lot of the Bruins’ early powerplay success this year. Hopefully, this award is just the start of a nice career in the black and gold for Ritchie.
End of First Period: Bruins 0 – Rangers 0
First Period Shots: Bruins 9 – Rangers 7
The Bruins continued their efforts to make a breakthrough in the second, but it was K’Andre Miller who found the back of the net first. The Rangers defenseman opened the scoring by tossing a relatively harmless shot towards the net. However, the shot had 20/20 vision, and it found the top shelf of the net to make the game 1-0. Tuukka Rask never even saw the puck and had no chance of stopping it.
David Pastrnak came inches away from tying the game later in the period, but the crossbar had other ideas. His shot beat Keith Kinkaid over the right shoulder and rang off the iron frame of the net before nestling in the protective netting out of play. With just under two minutes to go in the period, the newly crowned seventh man Nick Ritchie scored his career-high 15th goal of the year after nearly setting up Jake DeBrusk just minutes earlier. Ritchie collected a loose puck and jammed it past a sprawling Kinkaid to tie the game just before the intermission.
End of Second Period: Bruins 1 – Rangers 1
Second Period Shots: Bruins 19 – Rangers 5 (Total Shots: BOS 28 – NYR 12)
After dominating the second-period shot totals, the Bruins’ hard work paid off almost immediately in the third when the perfection line got to work on the forecheck, and David Pastrnak chipped the puck into an open net for his 200th career goal and 20th of the season. The goal was the best possible way for the Bruins to start the period, and they seemed to be on their way to another convincing win, despite starting slowly again. That had been a trend for the Bruins throughout the season against non-playoff teams, and it seemed like today would be another example to add to that file.
The lead was short-lived, however, despite Rask’s best efforts, when Mika Zibanejad finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal to tie the game at two-five minutes later. Just minutes prior, Rask had made an unbelievable toe save on Pavel Buchnevich to maintain the lead, only for it to be erased on Zibanejad’s 23rd goal of the season.
The dam seemed to break with that goal, as two minutes later, Alexis Lafreniere shoveled a backhand over Rask’s glove into the top shelf to retake the lead at 3-2. Lafreniere, who had a slow start this season, showed the TD Garden fans why he was picked number one overall in last summer’s draft on his twelfth goal of the season. Another two minutes later, and the Bruins found themselves down two goals after Vitali Kravtsov took a pass in the slot and fired it past Rask for just his second of the season.
Taylor Hall’s speed earned the Bruins a lifeline with just over five minutes to go in the game when Anthony Bitetto was forced to take a holding penalty to stop a goal-scoring opportunity. On the ensuing powerplay, though, Brad Marchand made the most out of the chance, taking a David Krejci feed from the right circle and slid a backhand shot on the ice through a bit of traffic and into the Rangers’ net, setting up a frantic finish.
With two minutes left, Zibanejad appeared to end any hopes of a Bruins comeback when he sniped his second goal of the day and the 200th of his career. Captain Patrice Bergeron had other ideas, however, and just thirty seconds later, he tipped in the Bruins’ fourth goal of the game to bring the game back to a one-goal deficit.
The Bruins made an effort to tie up the hockey game in the remaining 90 seconds, but they really couldn’t get anything going. Their last hopes faded away when Pastrnak failed to find a teammate on a breakout pass, turning over the puck to a Rangers team who will now dig their golfing gear out of their closets, while the Bruins will try to turn around their performance before the playoffs start.
End of Third Period: Bruins 4 – Rangers 5
Third Period Shots: Bruins 11 – Rangers 11 (Total Shots: BOS 39 – NYR 23)
Unfortunately for fans that were hoping to see the Bruins getting into playoff form, this afternoon’s game was yet another example of the B’s playing down to a team they should be handling and trying to play catch up after the fact. They started slow and only really started to play in the second after going down 1-0. They played pretty well after the wake-up call, outshooting the Rangers by a wide margin, but after taking the lead, they stopped skating again and gave up three quick goals. That isn’t a formula that will win many playoff series, let alone four in a row.
Something is going to have to change in the dressing room going into the playoffs, or it could be a short run for the reinforced Bruins. One positive that can be taken, though, is that the Bruins do tend to play better against higher quality opponents. As a fan, though, I don’t want to rely on the Bruins to have to elevate to their opponent rather than playing their game regardless of the opposition. The Bruins have two more games to gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, first at home against the Islanders on Monday night and then in the nation’s capital against the Capitals on Tuesday to finish the season.