It took 40 years for Original Six rivals Boston and New York to face off again in the playoffs.
Beantown’s Bruins seem intent on wrapping up the long-awaited get-together in a hurry.
Daniel Paille scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:31 left in the third period – after defenseman Johnny Boychuk got the Bruins even earlier in the frame – and Boston put the Rangers on the brink of elimination with a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night.
Boston leads the series 3-0 and can advance to the conference finals as early as Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Only three NHL teams have rallied from an 0-3 hole to advance.
However, the Philadelphia Flyers did it to the Bruins in 2010 in this round.
”We can talk about it all we want, but that’s in the past,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ”We had to live with that and we still have to live with that.”
Boston also nearly blew a 3-1 series edge in the opening round this year against Toronto, before rallying from a three-goal deficit in the third period and capturing Game 7 in overtime.
”The Toronto series, I didn’t think our team was in the zone the way it is right now,” Julien said. ”I anticipate – knowing my team – that we’re going to come out the same next game and certainly not be the Jekyll and Hyde team that we were in the first round.”
The Bruins trailed 1-0 heading into the third, but Boychuk tied it with his fourth of the playoffs after he netted just one in 44 regular-season games. The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation when leading after two periods since Feb. 4, 2010.
Boston thought it had grabbed the lead seconds before Paille scored when a shot deflected off the mask of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, popped up in the air and landed on the goal line. Lundqvist couldn’t find it before Paille swooped in from behind the net and poked in the puck.
”I thought we played a pretty strong game,” Lundqvist said, ”but we came up short again and it definitely hurts.”
Taylor Pyatt had made it 1-0 in the second period for the Rangers, who were outscored 8-4 in two losses at Boston to begin the series. New York had won nine straight at home, including three in the playoffs against Washington in the first round.
Lundqvist was sharp until the third period and finished with 32 saves. He bounced back well after an uncharacteristic performance in which he allowed five goals in the Game 2 loss.
”You have to be pretty happy with the situation right now,” said Tuukka Rask, who made 23 saves for Boston. ”We were really happy with our effort, I think this was our best defensive effort in a long, long time. So we just have to stay calm, keep playing our style of hockey and good things will happen.”
New York’s task is now most difficult. The Rangers were already trying to become the first NHL team to ever rebound from 0-2 holes to win consecutive series.
”You can’t look at it as you have to win four games,” Lundqvist said. ”You just have to focus on the next one. The season is on the line, so you have to leave everything out there.
”We definitely have to give everything right now, mentally and physically, and put it out there on Thursday.”
The Rangers again couldn’t get their power play untracked, failing in both of their chances and dropping to 0-for-10 in the series. New York has only two power-play goals in 38 opportunities during these playoffs.
Boychuk was credited with the tying goal after the puck appeared to deflect into the net off Rangers defenseman John Moore.
The game turned rougher moments later when New York forward Chris Kreider was struck under his visor by the stick of Boston’s Tyler Seguin, who was following through on a shot just inside the blue line. Seguin was then clipped in the exchange by the stick of Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger.
Shortly after, Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron had a cut over his eye that left his white jersey bloodstained. No penalties were called on any of the plays.
New York took just its second lead of the series 3:53 into the second period when Pyatt deflected in a shot by defenseman Ryan McDonagh that was fired from the blue line.
Lundqvist shined in the second, making a pad stop on Seguin 6 1-2 minutes in, stretching across to knock away a drive by rookie defenseman Torey Krug – who scored in each of the first two games of the series – and then bringing the crowd to its feet with a lunging glove snare of Gregory Campbell’s slap shot from the left circle with 8:24 remaining.
That got the Bruins even in shots (15-15) before they outshot New York 8-1 the rest of the second.
The Rangers got off to a sluggish start after losing the opening faceoff, and didn’t mount any kind of early surge fueled by the excited home crowd. New York didn’t carry the puck into the Boston end until 1:35 had elapsed.
”You have to be proud of your team,” Julien said. ”The Rangers hadn’t lost here in a long time and they were extremely confident. You saw them come out with that confidence. I thought they were a much better team than they had been in Boston.
”We had to face that and we had to be better.”
The Rangers picked up their play and built a 6-1 edge in shots, including scoring opportunities on Rask. New York earned the first power play of the night, however it was as ineffective as it has been throughout the postseason.
The tide turned back to the Bruins’ favor just before the midway point in the period, starting with a partial breakaway after New York turned over the puck at the Boston blue line. Chris Kelly raced ahead with the puck and was stopped in tight by Lundqvist when he tried a backhanded shot.
Shawn Thornton was also denied when he came in alone on Lundqvist with 8:46 left in the period, and Jaromir Jagr couldn’t score, either, when he got a pair of whacks at the puck that the New York goalie turned aside.
The Bruins’ surge gave them an 8-7 edge in shots, but Boston finished the period trailing 11-9.
”We were down but we weren’t playing that poorly,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of the team’s third-period mindset. ”We needed to stay aggressive, try to tie the game. We just wanted to get pucks to the net. We did that and we were rewarded.”
NOTES: The Rangers didn’t yield a power-play chance for the second straight home game. … New York D Anton Stralman was injured in the second period and didn’t return. … Since Boston trailed 4-1 in Game 7 against Toronto, Rask has allowed five goals in four-plus games.