Rangers 3, Bruins 2

Bruins hurting all over

Bergeron injured in loss to Rangers

Goaltender Tuukka Rask didn’t lose his head making one of his 32 saves, just his facemask. Goaltender Tuukka Rask didn’t lose his head making one of his 32 saves, just his facemask. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / January 5, 2010

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NEW YORK - Looking every bit the part of visiting rubes, the Bruins suffered a Jack Lemmon-like out-of-towner’s nightmare last night at Madison Square Garden. Not only did they play poorly, losing to the Rangers, 3-2, but they also lost the services of savvy slot man Patrice Bergeron to a hand injury, possibly a fracture, that today will have him return to Boston while teammates get ready to play in Ottawa.

Bergeron, the club’s MVP this season, exited in the second period when he fronted the offensive net and was drilled on the right hand by a Dennis Wideman slapper. Prior to the Bruins packing up their long faces for a trip north to Ontario, Bergeron was told to return to the Hub, where he will be examined by team doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Let’s put it this way, if he’s not back, we’ve lost our best player since the beginning of the year,’’ said coach Claude Julien, confirming that it was the shot to the hand that knocked Bergeron out of the action. “That sums it up right there.’’

Asked if he could provide at least a preliminary medical report, Julien added, “No, we don’t gauge ourselves on that . . . we’ll let him see our doctors and tomorrow we’ll have something specific.’’

Bergeron was hurt early in the second period as he moved to the top of the crease in the offensive zone. Gaining position on Rangers defenseman Mike Del Zotto in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Wideman’s shot from above the circles nailed Bergeron on the right glove, sending the Team Canada Olympian to the bench shaking his hand.

Television cameras caught Bergeron wincing on the bench as he talked to team trainer Don DelNegro and a Versus report later in the period noted that Bergeron entered the X-ray room at the Garden. Before leaving the bench, it appeared as if Bergeron were icing the hand.

Team spokesman Eric Tosi said before the third period that Bergeron would not return, but Tosi did not provide details as to the nature of the injury. Postgame, Tosi also would not confirm that Bergeron underwent X-rays and repeated the party line that Bergeron will be examined today.

Teammate Matt Hunwick, who picked up a goal and an assist in a late third-period rally that had the Bruins pull even, 2-2, noted what a disappointment it would be if Bergeron is lost for an extended period.

“After the way things have been going, to be named to the Canadian Olympic team, and just the year he’s had, fighting through adversity for a couple of years,’’ said Hunwick, “obviously it’s a big blow to our team. He was our leader when [Marc Savard] was out.’’

If the shot fractured a bone in Bergeron’s hand or wrist, an absence of 5 or 6 weeks would be the typical recovery time. That wouldn’t necessarily mean he would be scratched from the Olympics, but it would put his return just about as the Games were to start in Vancouver. If he had to be scratched, Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman might consider Savard for the open roster spot.

Down by two goals late in the third period, the Bruins rallied quickly, the first goal by Hunwick, who connected with a shorthander at 14:33, shoveling home a backhander from the slot after a David Krejci shot was blocked. Only 86 seconds later, the new line of Hunwick-Michael Ryder-Blake Wheeler clicked for the equalizer, Wheeler snapping home a shot from the slot and breaking a 15-game goal drought.

But with 1:29 to go, Chris Higgins won it with a backhand tuck at the left post on Tuukka Rask after the Blueshirt forward beat rookie defenseman Johnny Boychuk along the wall.

“I don’t know if I was cheating at all,’’ Rask said. “I thought I had the post covered and it just went underneath my skateblade. It [stinks].’’

Again slow to generate quality scoring chances, the Bruins fell into a 1-0 deficit midway through the first period when Ales Kotalik hammered home a power-play goal with a one-time slapper above the left faceoff circle. Brandon Dubinsky slid over the relay from the opposite side and Kotalik drilled it through a screen, with Rask unable to see the shot.

The deficit grew to 2-0 with 7:34 gone in the second when Erik Christensen broke in on the right side, after zipping by Zdeno Chara in the neutral zone, and slid a doorstep shot past Rask. The play generated out of the Rangers end with a long lead pass by Del Zotto that Dubinsky tapped to the breaking Christensen with an artful touch pass.

“I don’t know if we deserved to win after those two periods,’’ said Rask, echoing comments by Julien, who was clearly peeved over his squad’s performance. “We made it a game and then, you know, [expletive] happens.’’

The Bruins will find out today, once Mass. General determines the severity of Bergeron’s injury, if the loss was even worse than it looked.

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