Rick Nash was not warmly greeted by the Bruins in his return to the ice. Credit: Getty Images
What transpired over the course of 60 minutes Tuesday night at the Garden was diametrically opposite of what took place over five games last May.
Except for one relatively important detail.
As they did in last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the Rangers lost to the Bruins, 2-1, last night.
“It’s always a pretty hard-fought game against Boston,” Dan Girardi said. “They’re real stingy and they’re tough to play against.”
For the majority of the game, the Rangers used their speed to initiate the offensive attack. The Rangers finished with a 44-22 advantage in shots on goal and an 83-51 advantage in attempted shots.
“Right now we’re doing all the things that you’re supposed to do in order to win. We’re not giving the opposition much offensively. We’re playing well defensively,” head coach Alain Vigneault said of his charges, who have only scored two goals in their last three games while allowing three.
The Rangers’ last five games have been decided by one goal. The Rangers are 2-3 in the stretch.
“We haven’t scored a five-on-five goal in three games but we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do to get them,” Vigneault said. “All the games we have lost lately have all been one-goal games. We’re doing a lot of the right things. The one thing that we have to start doing is make the opposition pay for their mistakes.”
The 44 shots marked the third time this season the Rangers finished with 40 or more shots on goal. The Rangers broke the 40 shot barrier only five times in the truncated 2013 regular season, and did not have a 40-shot game in any of their 12 Stanley Cup playoff games last spring.
“Tonight we had opportunities, we had chances,” Ryan Callahan said. “We have to find the back of the net, there’s no question. We’re not happy with this; it’s a loss no matter how you look at it. You keep getting shots like that, you keep getting second opportunities, it’s going to go in.”
But it was Boston who drew first blood.
Shawn Thornton’s right-circle snapshot 4:58 into the second period opened the scoring. Zdeno Chara began the play by forcing Mats Zuccarello into committing an offensive zone turnover, and Thornton corralled the loose puck by the bench before steaming into the Rangers’ zone and beating Henrik Lundqvist high.
The Rangers were down 1-0 despite having a 17-8 advantage in shots on goal, including a Chris Kreider penalty shot 6:16 into the match.
“Not to have the lead after the first period was a little tough,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 20 saves.
Trailing 1-0, the Rangers power play had a hand in two goals in a span of seven minutes and 43 seconds. Six minutes and 42 seconds after Thornton’s goal, the Rangers found themselves down 2-0 as Daniel Paille scored his third of the season on a short-handed breakaway. Derick Brassard halved the deficit exactly 1:01 after Paille’s goal with a left-circle snapshot that beat Tuukka Rask high to the glove side.
“In the second I never really touched the puck and they got two chances there,” Lundqvist said. “When we are not scoring I have to come up with the big save and I didn’t.”
The Rangers continued to pressure in the third but were unable to solve Rask, who finished with 43 saves.
“Tuukka played well,” Callahan said. “He made some good stops.”
The Rangers are 10-11-0 this season as they head on a five-game road trip before returning to the Garden Nov. 30 for a matchup with the John Tortorella-coached Canucks.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.