BOSTON (CBS) — If we all don’t get to see at least four more games between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers in May or June, we really won’t have any reason to complain. The three contests between two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams have provided more excitement than could have been rightfully expected.
But still, after a long lockout that cost us all a half of a hockey season, can’t we get a little greedy?
The urge to see Boston and New York battle it out in a seven-game playoff series is sure to persist for the rest of the regular season, especially after the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win at the TD Garden on Tuesday night. The game looked to lack the drama that came in the first two meetings between the teams, but a late, improbable surge from the Bruins generated two goals with the goalie pulled, forcing overtime and rousing a Boston crowd from its silent state.
The Rangers eventually earned the two points, thanks to an are-you-kidding-me shootout move by Rick Nash and stellar goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 37 shots in regulation and OT and then three of four in the shootout. Yet despite the shootout loss, the Bruins come away from Tuesday’s game having earned four of a possible six points against the Rangers. More importantly, they know that despite trailing for more than 38 minutes, despite a couple of bad bounces that worked against them, despite their opponents blocking 25 shots and despite looking destined for a regulation loss, the Bruins will never be out of any game they play.
“Pretty much our whole team is here from when we went on the Cup run,” said Brad Marchand, who scored the game-tying goal with 42.3 seconds left in the third. “We know that the game’s not over until the buzzer rings. We just seem to have that confidence, if we’re down by a goal or two, we can battle back. And you need that. You need that going to the playoffs and going down the stretch, and it’s a good thing to see early on. We’ve just gotta keep building on it.”
The Rangers entered Tuesday’s game having won three of their four games in February, outscoring opponents 9-2 in their last two victories. They rode that momentum to build a 3-0 lead (thanks in part to an absurd assist by Nash, who was lying on the ice before dishing to Carl Hagelin for New York’s first goal), which they carried more than halfway into the third period.
Yet after each goal, the Bruins never rolled over, and that continued in the third. With Nash in the penalty box for hooking, Dennis Seidenberg fired a purposeful snap shot toward net. Milan Lucic redirected the shot, which bounced off Lundqvist’s pads, and David Krejci collected the rebound and backhanded into the net to get the Bruins on the board. It came one second after the penalty expired, officially giving the Bruins an 0-for-4 on the man advantage for the evening, but the important stat was the “1″ added to the scoreboard.
“We didn’t hang our heads. We kept pushing and pushing,” Krejci said. “Once you get the first one, then they get nervous a little bit. I think that’s what happened. We were all over them, we were getting great chances after the first goal.”
Still, against that goalie and that team defense, the Bruins had a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. And they sure took their time, waiting until desperation kicked in to get back on the board.
With Rask on the bench and the extra skater on, Andrew Ference unleashed a slap shot from the blue line through traffic, and Lundqvist let up a rebound right in front to Nathan Horton. All Horton’s been doing this season is scoring big goals, and he did it again there.
It was no doubt a huge goal, but even then, potting one more with just 1:31 left to play seemed unlikely at best.
But this year’s team doesn’t seem to ever give up, and just 46 seconds later, it was Marchand who got his stick on a deflected puck and roofed it past Lundqvist. Marchand said after the game that his goal was just good luck being on his side, but in a sport like hockey, against a team as good as New York, players need to make their own luck. Marchand did exactly that.
“It was wild,” Marchand said. “It seemed like once we got that first one, we knew we were gonna tie it up. We just kept going. It’s always fun having a game like that in our rink.”
Nobody who watched Tuesday night’s spectacle would question that statement from Marchand, just as everyone on earth who enjoys hockey at its highest level will be hoping to see these two teams face off in the playoffs since the early ’70s.