Wednesday was “prove it” day for the Boston Bruins.
With the majority of the team’s roster locks remaining home in Massachusetts, the Bruins trotted out a lineup made up largely of fringe players for their preseason matchup with the New York Rangers.
Jonas Gustavsson — one of the final two backup goalie candidates — started in net, and Boston’s forward corps was sprinkled with players vying for a spot on the team’s fourth line.
Boston got on the board early, but New York responded with three consecutive goals and held on to win 3-2 at Madison Square Garden.
The one Bruins line that remained intact Wednesday opened the scoring less than a minute after puck drop.
Jimmy Hayes controlled the puck near the right circle and fed it in front to linemate Brett Connolly, who deposited it into the open net for his first goal of the preseason. Defenseman Matt Irwin was credited with the secondary assist on the tally, which came just 40 seconds in.
Hayes, Connolly and center Ryan Spooner are expected to form Boston’s third line this season.
Although the Rangers played nearly all of their regulars, the Bruins dominated possession in the first, outshooting their hosts 13-6. The line of Anton Blidh, Joonas Kemppainen and Max Talbot generated two of the team’s better scoring chances, with defenseman Zach Trotman also having a hand in both.
Also in the first, Zac Rinaldo was sent to the penalty box for the first time this preseason when he bowled over Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The notoriously antagonistic winger entered the game having drawn four penalties without being whistled for one himself.
The Rangers sought revenge on Rinaldo early in the second, with Dylan McIlrath earning a two-minute charging minor for laying a high hit on the forward after he had released the puck.
New York turned up the pressure as the period progressed and benefited from another goalie interference penalty when Tyler Randell tripped up Lundqvist. The netminder looked like he embellished a bit to draw the call, but the Bruins killed off the ensuing penalty.
They could not keep the Blueshirts off the board for much longer, however, as a Ryan McDonagh shot found its way through a four-player crowd and into the net with 3:33 to play in the second. That goal tied the game, and J.T. Miller added another less than three minutes later, dangling his way around Adam McQuaid in the process.
The second period also featured a fight between McIlrath and Randell that yielded no clear winner. It was the second bout of the preseason for Randell, who appears destined to begin the season in Providence.
The Rangers’ lead swelled to 3-1 when Rick Nash scored on the power play, gathering his own rebound and taking advantage of an out-of-position Gustavsson.
Lundqvist was rock-solid at the other end for the majority of the night, but the Bruins finally put another one past him after pulling Gustavsson for an extra attacker with more than three minutes remaining in regulation.
Connolly employed a baseball-style stick swing to knock in his second goal of the night, with Trotman and Spooner assisting.
Lunqvist finished with 39 saves, while Gustavsson recorded 24.
The Bruins couldn’t come up with the equalizer, but the teams returned for five minutes of 3-on-3 regardless. Neither team found the net in the extra session.
The Bruins will conduct their annual media day Thursday before closing out the preseason Friday night in Washington.
Videos via @CrzyCanucklehed
Thumbnail photo via Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports Images