Defeat hits Bruins hard
Grinding Rangers gain some ground
In less than three weeks, when the games become most meaningful, they are guaranteed to look more like yesterday’s tight-quarters match than Thursday’s 7-0 dismantling of the Canadiens.
Before 17,565 at TD Garden, the surging Rangers (8-1-1 in their last 10 games) played big-boy playoff hockey to wring out a 1-0 win over the Bruins. Considering the pace of the seventh-place Rangers, they could climb into sixth to set up a postseason showdown with the No. 3 Bruins.
The Rangers, however, could continue to play varsity hockey and shoot right past sixth.
“The other team played a pretty solid game,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “They were strong on the puck. They were solid. They were gritty.
“We were a little light on our sticks for the first 40 minutes. That put us in a bad situation. In the third period, too little, too late.’’
New York scored the only goal following two questionable non-calls, one more noticeable than the other. During a first-period shift, based on a video replay, Marian Gaborik was clearly offside. But the play continued until Tuukka Rask froze the puck at 6:36, setting up an offensive-zone faceoff for the Rangers.
The next non-call was a little subtler. An instant before Rich Peverley leaned over to take the draw against Derek
Naturally, Julien wasn’t happy with linesmen Derek Amell and Pierre Champoux.
“Both. Both,’’ said Julien when asked whether Gaborik’s offside or Prospal’s quick trigger upset him more. “It was a missed offside. They make mistakes. But the guy jumps in and he’s the guy who passes to the point. It obviously should have been blown down. At one point there’s one mulligan. But I didn’t feel that they needed two.’’
The missed calls, however, had zero bearing on the one-sided game through 40 minutes.
For the first two periods, the Rangers played the perfect road game. Their No. 1 line, led by bash brothers Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, wore out the Boston defensemen with a relentless forecheck. The Rangers pursued the puck as if it were their last meal. It was the type of hard-to-play-against game the Bruins prefer to exhibit when they’re clicking — heavy forecheck, constant cycle, puck possession.
If the teams clash in the playoffs, the Rangers could cause a shortage on ice cubes in town considering the licking they laid on the Bruins with the consistency of a bass drum.
“They’re a hard, grinding team like the Montreal Canadiens,’’ said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “They’re just a little bigger, I think. Not as quick, maybe. But they stick to the program. They forecheck hard and just grind it out in the corners. We just didn’t have enough jump. I don’t know what it was. We didn’t get into the dirty areas and win the puck battles we needed to.’’
Because the Rangers were so heavy on the puck, the Bruins had few chances to get their offensive game in gear. They didn’t put a puck on Henrik Lundqvist in the second period until 9:50 had elapsed and Gregory Campbell finally placed a shot on the netminder. Through two periods, top-line forwards Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton didn’t have a shot.
In the third, the Rangers sat back and collapsed in front of Lundqvist. At last, the Bruins showed some hunger and desperation for the puck.
They outshot the Rangers by a 12-1 margin. But the Rangers filled shooting lanes, threw bodies in front of pucks, and gave Lundqvist all the help he required. The Rangers were credited with 29 blocked shots. The Bruins had eight.
“They’re a pretty dedicated group at getting into shooting lanes. They’ve always been that way,’’ said Julien.
Offensively, the sharpest Bruins line of the day was the No. 3 trio of Peverley, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin.
They created multiple scoring chances down low. Seguin, his battle level improving with each game, led all forwards with four shots. Kelly wasn’t afraid to enter the danger areas.
But by game’s end, it was the No. 1 line plus Patrice Bergeron that Julien selected for the final six-on-five push. The first goal never came.
“It wasn’t a bad game,’’ said defenseman Andrew Ference. “It was a playoff type of game. It was one of those ones where there wasn’t a ton of mistakes made. Good goaltending. A lot of blocked shots. A lot of sound positional play. Those go either way.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.