While the Boston Bruins carried plenty of steam into the Olympic break, they haven’t played nearly as well since getting back on the ice.
Hoping to avoid a season-worst third consecutive loss, the Bruins go for their first season sweep of the New York Rangers in 31 years as these Original Six rivals meet at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
Atlantic Division-leading Boston (37-17-5) is still trying to shake off the rust following the 2 1/2 week layoff. The Bruins suffered a 5-4 overtime loss at NHL-worst Buffalo in their first game back Wednesday, then fell 4-2 at home to Washington on Saturday.
"We’re getting caught cheating too much in the offensive side and it’s ending up in the back of the net," said coach Claude Julien, whose team had won seven of nine before the break. "It’s something we need to fix because we’re giving up too many goals."
Tuukka Rask allowed the game’s first three goals before Patrice Bergeron and Shawn Thornton scored in the second period. Rask, playing in his first game since helping Finland capture the bronze in Sochi, recorded 27 saves.
"For sure that wasn’t our best game," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We could have done a number of things differently and better. We have to learn from games like this."
The Bruins now turn their attention to the Rangers, against whom they posted a pair of one-goal wins in November. Rask stopped a combined 60 of 63 shots in those games, improving to 6-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average in his last seven starts in the series, including playoffs.
Boston has compiled an 8-1-2 record versus New York dating to April 2012, including postseason. The Bruins are seeking their first series sweep since taking all three meetings in 1982-83.
The Rangers (33-25-3) are also looking to get back on track after falling 4-2 at Philadelphia on Saturday. Derick Brassard scored 11:42 into the second period to erase an early two-goal deficit, but Wayne Simmonds put the Flyers ahead to stay less than two minutes later.
"It was a hard-fought game and they were able to capitalize on a few more of their chances than we were," coach Alain Vigneault told the team’s official website. "We don’t have any time to dwell on this one, we’ve got Boston coming into our building (Sunday) night so we’ve got to get ready."
Silver medal winner Henrik Lundqvist made his first appearance since the Olympics, finishing with 27 saves in his first loss since Jan. 23. He entered having posted a 1.77 GAA during a season-high five-start winning streak.
"Lot of good things, but it was not enough tonight," Lundqvist said. "Move on quickly here, we have a big one (Sunday)."
Lundqvist is 1-6-0 with a 2.74 GAA during a seven-game stretch against Boston, including playoffs. However, he has allowed three goals or fewer in each of his 16 regular-season home starts in the series, going 12-4-0 with a 1.93 GAA and three shutouts.
If in goal, Lundqvist will need to be careful against Brad Marchand, who has five goals and six assists in his last nine games against New York, including playoffs. Marchand had notched six goals and four assists during a six-game road point streak.
Boston is 20-4-3 when he records at least one point.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, pointless in a season-high four straight games, has just one assist in his last six regular-season meetings versus Boston.