Things between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers felt mellow for about 40 minutes on Saturday.
Then everything changed in a big way.
After seven combined goals in the third period, it was the Rangers who escaped TD Garden with a 5-4 victory in their season finale.
Nick Ritchie (who won the NESN 7th Player Award on Saturday), David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had the goals for the Bruins. K’Andre Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafrenière, Vitali Kravtsov scored for the Rangers.
Tuukka Rask turned away 18 shots for Boston, while New York netminder Keith Kinkaid made 28 saves before getting hurt in the third. Igor Shesterkin then took over and made seven stops the rest of the way
With the loss, the Bruins fell to 32-15-7. The Rangers climb to 27-23-6 with the win.
Here’s how it all went down.
ALL BRUINS, NO SCORE
It didn’t result in any goals, but the Bruins dominated play in the first period, often establishing their offensive zone for lengthy stretches.
The Rangers weren’t totally indifferent, but they were outplayed. Ten giveaways paved the way for a chunk of Boston’s chances, but New York was able to hang its hat on defensive play, blocking 10 shots to Boston’s one and outhitting the B’s 9-5.
The hosts held the shots advantage 9-7, but couldn’t cash in on their lone full power play. Morgan Barron kneed Taylor Hall with 28 seconds left in the period, so Boston went into the second on the man advantage.
The scoring started to come for both sides in the second period, which finished locked up at one apiece.
Despite continuing to control play, the Bruins actually conceded the first goal a little over six minutes into the second.
With his left skate just in front of the blue line, Miller decided to fire a wrister to the net, with a ton of traffic separating him from Rask. But the puck feathered right through, and the Bruins netminder didn’t even budge as the puck zipped past him at 6:22 to make it 1-0 visitors.
After receiving a neutral zone pass from Sean Kuraly later in the period, Ritchie gained the offensive blue line, whipping down the left wing boards. He threw a puck toward the net that went wide, making its way up to Charlie McAvoy at the point.
The defenseman’s ensuing attempt also went wide, but caromed off the end boards and to Ritchie at the doorstep, where the winger was a split-second ahead of Kinkaid, tallying the equalizer at 18:12.
Things went nuts in the third.
Shortly after puck drop to begin the period, Kinkaid knocked a puck to the end boards, where Pavel Buchnevich retreated to start the breakout. His blind backhand pass was intercepted at the right dot by Brad Marchand, who quickly whacked it across the zone to Pastrnak. The winger buried it just 21 seconds into the period to put the Bruins up 2-1.
Things unraveled quickly though.
The Rangers got a 3-on-1, and started playing tic-tac-toe between Ryan Strome and Buchnevich, with the latter eventually feeding a crashing Zibanejad for a game-tying one-timer at 5:22.
Just over two minutes later, the Rangers got a rush going. After gaining the attacking zone, Buchnevich from the right wing boards backhanded a pass to Anthony Bitteto, who pivoted and fired a pass over to Lafrenière, who, thanks to some slick mitts, beat Rask at 7:26 to put the Rangers up 3-2.
Still, the game felt like it was in the balance.
A series of puck battles in New York’s offensive zone resulted in Ryan Strome getting the puck behind the net. He saw Kravtsov crashing to the high slot, and Strome’s resulting feed led to a blistering Kravtsov one-timer that Rask barely saw, making it 4-2.
A nice defensive effort from Marchand prevented the Rangers from clearing their zone later in the third. After making the stop, Marchand skated deeper and sent a pass over to David Krejci for a give-and-go, which concluded with a Marchand backhander at 14:08 to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Some bad luck ultimately sunk the Bruins though.
With under two minutes to play, Mike Reilly tried to clear the defensive zone by slapping a puck around the boards. It took a weird bounce off the half wall though and Buchnevich was there to retrieve the loose change. Zibanejad then darted for the net, and was met by a Buchnevich pass that he put away at 18:07 to make it 5-3.
The Bruins did pull back within one mere seconds later. Matt Grzelcyk skated down the left wing and threw a puck towards the net. Bergeron was waiting to redirected it, which he did with relative ease to pull Boston back within one at 18:39.
The Bruins play the penultimate game of the regular season Monday against the New York Islanders. Puck drop from TD Garden is set for 7 p.m. ET, with pregame coverage beginning at 6 p.m. on NESN+.