After losing their first three matchups this season, Boston beat New York at home Sunday night, giving the Bruins a boost as they look ahead to a playoff scenario that will almost certainly go through the Rangers.
It’s the third time in the last four years the defending Stanley Cup champs have won their division, and the Bruins did it by denying the Rangers a lock on the No. 1 seed.
Tim Thomas was excellent in goal for the Bruins, saving 30 of 31 shots, but the intensity was a team effort. After a shaky first period where the B’s seemed to have trouble matching the Rangers’ fiery pace, Boston made it happen in the second frame. Goals from Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins ahead, and an excellent penalty kill effort (two shots allowed on three power plays, no goals) kept the lead safe.
The Bruins are now 31-0-0 when leading going into the third period, and they improved their numbers when trailing after the first period by coming back to win this one at Madison Square Garden.
A tip of the hat to Bergeron, who led the Bruins’ faceoff dominance (32-16 advantage) by winning 17 of his 19 draws. The Bruins also prevailed despite being outshot 31-24.
The B’s — now 7-1-1 in their last nine — next face another Stanley Cup contender, the Pittsburgh Penguins, on Tuesday. See it all on NESN, and follow online at NESN.com.
Third Period, 19:11, Bruins 2-1: Lundqvist’s night is over as the Rangers go all in to try for the win.
Third Period, 18:05, Bruins 2-1: Thomas gets caught a few yards in front of the net but scrambles back like a beach crab to make a basket catch on that shot. Terrifying, but vintage Thomas.
Third Period, 17:22, Bruins 2-1: Brandon Dubinsky tries to take on a handful of Bruins on his own but has no luck. The Bruins can sniff two points from here.
Third Period, 15:00, Bruins 2-1: The Rangers are outshooting the Bruins 11-3 this period, but they’re down to their final five minutes.
Third Period, 11:23, Bruins 2-1: Lundqvist goes to the glove to save that one. The B’s are minutes away from the division title if they keep this up, but the Rangers still look hungry.
Third Period, 9:54, Bruins 2-1: And it boils over: Punches are thrown along the boards. It’s been a surprisingly sedate game in that regard so far, but there’s probably no reason for a full-fledged fight in this one.
Third Period, 9:42, Bruins 2-1: Enjoying the highlight clip of Marchand. Most of his plays are made with him thwacked against the boards or sliding on the ice.
Third Period, 8:30, Bruins 2-1: Thomas is in the zone — another great save.
Third Period, 6:03, Bruins 2-1: A couple tries by Rich Peverley are turned away by Lundqvist on the power play. Another slap shot from Seidenberg also fails to make it home. The Bruins have kept it in the Rangers’ zone for just about the whole two minutes of the penalty.
Third Period, 4:55, Bruins 2-1: The eagerness to get on the ice gets the Rangers this time. They’ll take a penalty for having an extra man out there.
Third Period, 4:12, Bruins 2-1: The Rangers look a little limp out there, and this isn’t the time to be doing it — the Bruins have been locking down in the third period all season (30-0-0 with lead, plus-41 goal differential).
Third Period, 2:57, Bruins 2-1: The Bruins emerge from another penalty kill unscathed. The Rangers have gotten off just two shots on the power play this game and still trail despite the advantages.
Third Period, 0:51, Bruins 2-1: Thomas makes a save just as Thornton is set loose to return. The Bruins held up 5-on-3 for about 23 seconds there and will now deal with another power play.
Third Period, 0:46, Bruins 2-1: That’s a delay of game penalty call as the puck goes over the glass.
Second Intermission Notes: If the first period looked like a regular, end-of-the-season wind-down match, the second period had all the intrigue fans were hoping for. The Bruins came out on par with the Rangers’ high-pace attack and slowly picked up their intensity as time wore down, first taking the lead on goals by Seidenberg and Bergeron, then by weathering the power play and attacking late into the frame. The Rangers are going to need to double down to get the edge back in this one, especially with defending Vezina Trophy winner Thomas besting the man everyone says will take it this year (Lundqvist).
Seidenberg’s injury — an infection left over from being cut by a skate — seems to be a non-issue for the Boston defenseman after his sharp equalizer. And Bergeron, who returned just last weekend from a prolonged stay on the injury list himself, also appears to be getting back into rhythm. He’s been great for the B’s all year on the power play and did not disappoint, helping Boston turn the mismatch into the lead in this one. That was his 22nd goal, and it was Seguin’s 38th assist on the season.
Believe it or not, the Bruins and Rangers were just about even in shots on goal in that session. Boston had 11, New York 10. That gives the Bruins three more shots for the game.
Bergeron continued the Bruins’ faceoff domination, going 5-for-5 again as Boston leads the faceoff battle 10 to 7 in that period. That’s 10-for-10 for him tonight.
New York once again outpaced the Bruins on hits, 15 to 8. The most important number in that department, though, may be the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty call on Thornton, who had a minute left on his time in the box at the end of the period.
End of Second Period, Bruins 2-1: Thomas saves two more as the final seconds tick down and the Rangers get some shots off on the power play at last. The intensity everyone was waiting for at the beginning of the game finally showed up in this period.
Second Period, 18:40, Bruins 2-1: Thomas earns his keep with another couple of scary saves as the Rangers get a couple of shots off from mere feet away. Chara and Brian Boyle exchanged some words there, then Thornton decided to finish the business.
Thornton is now in the penalty box.
Second Period, 18:28, Bruins 2-1: A couple of scary missed chances there for both sides ends with a Thomas save. The precision has fallen off late in this period.
Second Period, 15:56, Bruins 2-1: Seguin had the assist on Bergeron’s goal, a nice wraparound effort from behind the net.
Second Period, 15:03, Bruins 2-1: Looks like Boston will take care of this penalty without an issue. The Rangers didn’t even send one at Thomas during the two minutes.
Second Period, 14:00, Bruins 2-1: Tick, tick, tick. The Rangers are 4-for-9 on the power play in their last two games.
Second Period, 13:03, Bruins 2-1: Milan Lucic takes Boston’s first trip to the box after a hit behind the net. Now it’s time to see how the Rangers do on the power play.
Second Period, 11:52, Bruins 2-1: Don’t tell the Bruins they’re no good on the power play. They send a couple off of Lundqvist, and another off the back of the ref, before power play hero Patrice Bergeron sends one through with 0:39 left in penalty time. That’s the first Boston goal on the power play against the Rangers this season.
Second Period, 10:35, 1-1: Julien tells the sideline reporter he’s OK with the fast pace of the game. Let’s see how he likes the power play results.
Second Period, 10:30, 1-1: It’s power play time at Madison Square Garden. Michael Del Zotto has been called for interference on Rich Peverley. That’ll be two minutes, sir.
Second Period, 10:20, 1-1: The Rangers don’t look nearly as in control in this frame, and Thomas keeps turning them away.
Second Period, 7:10, 1-1: Johnny Boychuck keeps up the Boston pressure with another hard shot, but Lundqvist watches this one all the way into the glove. The Bruins seem to be getting more clean looks.
Second Period, 4:49, 1-1: Chara, Marchand are credited with assists on that goal. That was some of the best movement we’ve seen from the Bruins tonight. After seeing several charges fizzle out halfway down the ice or the puck get lost in the Rangers’ defensive mix, the B’s kept control and set up a great shot on that play.That’s Seidenberg’s fifth goal of the game, and Chara continues his assist streak.
Second Period, 4:00, 1-1: Seidenberg ties up the game as the Bruins combine a rebound with a couple quick passes for a slap shot killer from the center of the zone.
Second Period, 2:20, Rangers 1-0: Another scary rush through the crease for the Rangers, but Thomas stands his ground, and the pass goes off the side of the net.
The Bruins are just 7-18-1 when trailing after the first period. Let’s see if the break gave head coach Claude Julien any ideas for how to get things moving on offense.
First Intermission Notes: Despite plenty of movement, the sides combined for just 12 shots: seven for the Bruins, five for the Rangers, with just Gaborik’s breakaway shot through the five-hole changing the scoreboard. It’s been a clean first period, too, with no penalties called and not much tussling. My guess is that it’s not so much defensive pressure that’s keeping the Rangers and Bruins off of each other — and off the goal — but rather a conservation of energy early. Both teams have to know they’ll be seeing each other again soon, but that’s no excuse not to ratchet it up after the break.
The Rangers have 14 hits to the Bruins’ eight, and New York also leads in blocked shots, 9-3.
The teams are almost even on faceoffs. Boston has won eight, the Rangers seven. Patrice Bergeron is 5-for-5 in that department, with no other Bruin winning more than one.
End First Period, Rangers 1-0: The first frame ends with both sides having done plenty to get into goal, but it’s only the Rangers who have anything to show for it.
First Period, 19:30, Rangers 1-0: Marchand takes a kamikaze run into a thicket of four Rangers. Nothing doing, but Boston recoups on an icing call.
First Period, 18:16, Rangers 1-0: A welcome sight as things get chippy behind the Rangers’ goal for a change. Boston is getting shots on goal but hasn’t been able to get any good looks lately on Lundqvist.
First Period, 15:30, Rangers 1-0: Jordan Caron hasn’t missed any time after taking a sharp pass from Zdeno Chara off the foot earlier in the period.
First Period, 12:00, Rangers 1-0: So close by Chris Kelly, who slices right in front of the goal but is thwarted by Lundqvist. Seidenberg’s slap shot from the right side off the ensuing scramble falls short, too. The Bruins are getting looks, but they’re quick ones.
First Period, 11:00, Rangers 1-0: It looks like the Rangers just played for a bit with a couple extra guys on the ice. They look stoked to play, but let’s keep the line changes a little more orderly, boys.
First Period, 6:50, Rangers 1-0: Thomas turns another crazy shot away. The puck is getting some serious altitude today.
First Period, 4:33, Rangers 1-0: Marian Gaborik scores unassisted on a long rebound off the Bruins’ attack. Lundqvist has been earning his keep early, and the Rangers just took that fortunate bounce and ran — er, skated — with it. A decent goal, but the B’s have to be kicking themselves for letting themselves bunch up on the other end like that. The Rangers got behind them and went ahead early.
We all know what happens when Boston doesn’t score first.
First Period, 2:00, 0-0: Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin get Boston into this one early with a couple rushes at the net. Gotta love the intensity right from the get-go.
7:09 p.m.: It’s hockey time at Madison Square Garden as the puck drops to start this one off.
6:45 p.m.: Looks like Daniel Paille will be playing on the fourth line with Brian Rolston and Shawn Thornton, and Gregory Campbell will be a scratch for this game, based on pregame warmups. Mike Mottau is also making an appearance, so he’ll likely be paired with Greg Zanon, and Joe Corvo will be out.
Lundqvist is in goal for the Rangers — his ninth straight start. Maybe New York does want this one bad. A win today gets the Rangers the No. 1 seed for sure, but there’s also a way both New York and Boston could be happy.
6:30 p.m.: The Presidents’ Cup trophy apparently is not a major motivator for New York going into tonight’s game. Rangers head coach John Tortorella: “It doesn’t mean squat.”
6 p.m.: We’re an hour away from the puck dropping at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have won all three matchups against the Bruins so far this year, but Boston is coming in on a 6-1-1 tear with a division crown in sight.
And if playing for postseason positions and glory isn’t enough, it’s April Fools’ Day today, too. I wonder what kind of tricks the crafty B’s have up their sleeves for tonight.
5:45 ET: It looks like Tim Thomas will be in goal tonight after Marty Turco took care of netminding duties in New York on Saturday. Here’s some of the likely line combinations:
No word yet on whether Dennis Seidenberg will be playing.
Healthy scratches: Mike Mottau, Daniel Paille, Torey Krug
5:30 p.m. ET: The Ottawa Senators look like they mean business against the Islanders, beating New York 5-1. That means it will take a win by the B’s tonight to clinch the division.
8 a.m. ET: The Bruins are guaranteed a playoff spot, but Boston is still hunting for the Northeast Division title with just four games remaining in the regular season. After dispatching the Islanders in New York yesterday, 6-3, the B’s will look to turn the same trick across town against the Rangers on Sunday.
A win and its two points will guarantee the title for the Bruins (46-28-4, 96 points), who have a six-point edge over the only other divisional foe still in contention, the Ottawa Senators. The Senators also play today, a 3 p.m. contest against the Islanders, and a loss by Ottawa would also guarantee the division title for Boston.
The Bruins are not only playing for home ice in the first round of the playoffs but also the No. 2 seed. Two Stanley Cup contenders, the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, stand in the way this week. The Rangers are also working toward the Presidents’ Cup, given to the team with the best regular-season record in the league.
New York (50-21-7, 107 points) — the Eastern Conference and league leader — has battled to the top of an Atlantic Division that has four of its five teams headed to the playoffs. They’ve been led by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected by many to take the Vezina Trophy for his outstanding play in the net this season.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have made their recent hot streak appear to be for real. After yo-yoing through much of the winter, Boston has gone on a 6-1-1 tear in the last eight games, with Thursday night’s loss to the Washington Capitals a fine comeback effort that fell just short in the shootout.
Although defenseman Adam McQuaid did not travel with the Bruins to New York, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg — sidelined with an infected cut from a skate above his left knee — did go on the trip. He did not play Saturday but may be called on Sunday night.
The Rangers and Bruins face off at 7 p.m. Stay with the NESN.com live blog, and we’ll keep you up to speed on everything happening.