BOSTON — The Bruins and New York Rangers played more than 65 minutes of hockey Thursday night at TD Garden, but less than five minutes in, the night already could be considered a loss for Boston.
The Bruins lost top defenseman Zdeno Chara to an upper body injury early in the first period, further weakening a D-corps that already featured question marks galore.
As for the game itself, the Bruins got an extra-attacker goal from Ryan Spooner with 53 seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime. Neither team scored during the five-minute extra session, sending the game to a shootout.
Brad Marchand lit the lamp for Boston in the sixth round of the skills competition, and Jeremy Smith saved Brian Gibbons’ ensuing attempt to give the Bruins a 4-3 win.
It was all Bruins in the early going, as the first six shots of the game were directed at Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist — the first NHL-caliber netminder the Bruins had faced this preseason. These included a rocket from Chara on the power play, a breakaway bid by Joonas Kemppainen and a shot from Joe Morrow that Lundqvist momentarily lost track of before recovering.
That bombardment paid off when Tyler Randell deflected a Morrow slap shot past Lundqvist for the first goal of the night. Zac Rinaldo was credited with the secondary assist, and Kemppainen helped make it happen with his puck control behind the New York net.
Jeremy Smith did not allow a goal in 30 minutes of action in Boston’s preseason opener, but he let one slip by at the 11:52 mark of the first Thursday. Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei initially hit the right post off a feed from Mats Zuccarello, but Smith’s attempt to corral the loose puck instead knocked it into the net for the game-tying goal.
That goal came on the Rangers’ second shot of the night. They also scored on their fourth, as Zuccarello fired one over Smith’s shoulder on a power-play give-and-go.
As one of four players fighting for the Bruins’ backup goalie job, two goals allowed on four shots certainly was not the kind of start Smith was looking for. He saved the final three shots he faced in the first as the Bruins took an 11-7 shot-on-goal edge into intermission.
Even more concerning than the Bruins’ goaltending issues, however, was the fact that Chara left the Boston bench less than five minutes into the game and did not return. Losing their best blueliner for any significant period of time would be disastrous for a B’s squad that already will be without Dennis Seidenberg for the next eight weeks and is projected to start several young, unproven players in its D-corps.
The Bruins had a couple of quality chances to tie the score early in the second, but Austin Cznarik whiffed on a Brett Connolly rebound with an open net in front of him, and Randell missed wide on a shot from straightaway.
Zac Rinaldo also was denied later in the period on a bid for a between-the-legs goal.
At the other end, Smith appeared to shake off his brutal start, making a few nice stops to help kill off a Brandon Carlo interference penalty. The 26-year-old did receive some help from Morrow, though, who continued his strong performance by bailing out his goaltender.
Randell moved one step closer to a Gordie Howe hat trick late in the second, following up his goal with a beatdown of Rangers defenseman Brett Bellemore.
Ryan Spooner was whistled for tripping less than two minutes later, however, and Dorchester, Mass., native Kevin Hayes struck gold on the ensuing power play to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
The Bruins trimmed the deficit to one with just under five minutes gone in the third. A Cznarik shot from between the circles rang the left post, but the loose puck eventually found its way to the stick of Carlo, who blasted it into the open net.
Jimmy Hayes and Connolly were credited with the assists.
Tempers briefly flared near the 15-minute mark of the period when Rinaldo checked Tommy Hughes hard into the boards between the benches. Tanner Glass responded by tackling the Bruins winger, earning him a trip to the penalty box and the Bruins a two-minute power play.
Smith’s tally with less than a minute to play completed Boston’s comeback and forced five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.
The new overtime format requires coaches to make some interesting lineup decisions, and Bruins boss Claude Julien began Thursday’s extra session by trotting out his top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson.
Each team enjoyed roughly 90 seconds of 4-on-3 power play time, but neither lit the lamp.
In a somewhat surprising move, Smith remained in the Bruins’ net for the entire game rather than giving way to Zane McIntyre, who also dressed. Boston’s four goalies each played roughly a period-and-a-half during the team’s first two preseason games.
Smith finished with 22 saves as Boston outshot New York 40-25 in the contest.
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