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In their first meeting since a memorable Black Friday showdown capped by some late-game heroics from the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers flipped the script like the venue -- from Boston’s TD Garden to New York City’s legendary Madison Square Garden -- on their Black and Gold counterpart by way of a Jesper Fast
tip-in scored with just 1:42 left in the third of a 2-1 Rangers victory.
And in this one, the final was
a complete indication of just how close this game was between the slumping B’s and Rangers. Both teams came out flying. Both teams had desperation in their game. And both teams slugged this out along the walls for every inch of space and chance on net.
The Bruins broke through behind Jimmy Hayes
’ 10th goal of the season, a strike that made him the fifth double-digit goal-scorer for the B’s this year, scored 9:04 into the middle frame off a great neutral zone dish from Ryan Spooner
(and a secondary helper to Zdeno Chara).
Hayes’ goal was a thing of beauty and his fifth goal in the last six games (Hayes has goals in three of those six games and points in all but two of them), and the Bruins had an even better second period chance (that wouldn’t go) behind Brett Connolly
’s post-blast on Henrik Lundqvist.
With a 1-0 lead to their name, and even 22-to-22 match in shots on goal through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins seemed reliant on the strong play of Tuukka Rask
to lead the way.
But 35 seconds into the third period, it would be New York’s Derick Brassard
that found space on a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello
that beat Rask and put the Rangers on the board.
In a playoff-esque matchup of a third period if there ever was one, the Bruins and Rangers traded chance for chance, but it would be Fast’s redirect of a late-game wide shot from Keith Yandle
that would beat Rask for Fast’s seventh goal of the year (a new career-high for Fast).
The Bruins would finish the night with chances -- including an all-out frenzy in front of Lundqvist’s crease with 45 seconds left -- but it would be for naught in the Rangers’ 16th home win of the year.
Rask took yet another tough loss, this time behind a 28-of-30 night. That’s the second straight defeat for Rask, too, despite a two-game stretch that’s seen him stop 66-of-70 shots thrown his way.
Random thoughts and notes
- This game was --- just absolutely awesome. Watching this one, you had a feeling that this game was happening in April or May, not January. That’s been the case when it comes to Bruins-Rangers games. 24 of the last 32 games have been decided by just one goal, so this final should not have come as a surprise to anybody. If there’s one minus about the new playoff format, it’s that these teams can’t match up ‘til the Conference Final, unless one of them draw into the other bracket as a wild card. And who knows if either gets there. In other words, this would be an incredible playoff series, it’s just a shame that you’d have to hope for the brackets and matchups to work out and make it so.
- It’s become blase to mock Kevan Miller
and pile on his struggles. You can make the case that Miller has been frequently miscast as a top-four defenseman this year when in he is, in reality, a third-pairing defenseman on a good team (which the Bruins are). But I’ll be honest: I’m out of ways to defend Miller’s usage at this point. You’ve seen one of, if not both of Joe Morrow
and Zach Trotman
, banished to the press box for near months
at a time. Meanwhile, Miller has been a sliding, falling mess all over the rink. It’s made almost no sense from Day 1. Now, you obviously respect a lot of the things that Miller does for the Bruins; He hits like a truck. blocks shots, and he’s not afraid of sticking up for his teammates when need be. But at a certain point, you need more.
Miller was on the ice for both of New York’s goals tonight, and on the second one, you’re absolutely right in question where No. 86’s mind was at. He doesn’t block the shot coming his way, nor does he pick up the man (the goal scorer in Fast) behind him. To quote Office Space, what is it that you do around here?
The Bruins have the luxury of having eight d-men on their NHL roster right now (though that figure is down to seven with Adam McQuaid’s injury). If you’re so afraid of losing Morrow, to the point where you play him just eight times since Nov. 3, then you should feel comfortable, y’know, playing him.
- The idea that Zdeno Chara
is no longer an elite defenseman is bothersome to me. Because you watch him in his end of the rink and he’s still pretty damn good at shutting down the other teams’ best on a nightly basis. He’s not invincible, of course, but you get positive results most nights. It’s his game at the other end of the rink, however, that’s left a lot to be desired of late. He was taken off the top power play unit (he was thrust into that spot when David Krejci went down) after a couple of strugglesome nights, but when the Bruins needed the game-tying goal, No. 33 was out there on the point. I don’t hate this. But I don’t love it, either. Why? Look at Chara casually chasing after the puck on a d-zone retrieval with less than 20 seconds to play in the game. Not a good look.
Unless your plan for Chara is to park him in front of the opposing netminder, put Colin Miller out there opposite Torey Krug on the point. He’s certainly earned that right with his offensive play this season.
It’s off to Philadelphia for the fourth game of this five-game road swing that’s come with a 1-1-1 mark for the Black and Gold. This is the second of three head-to-head showdowns between the Bruins and Flyers in 2015-16, with the Flyers taking the prior matchup via overtime on Oct. 21 at TD Garden.
Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.