The Rangers’ best effort in the Eastern Conference semifinals simply wasn’t good enough.
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As a result, a season which began with expectations of playing meaningful games in June is one loss away from ending.
The Rangers trail the Bruins in the best-of-seven series 3-0 after dropping a 2-1 decision in Game 3 Tuesday night at the Garden. Game 4 is Thursday night.
At least one Ranger took it personally.
“I feel a lot of areas that I could have contributed more and that’s infuriating,” Brian Boyle said. “The biggest game of the year, [and] it just wasn’t enough.”
Daniel Paille’s goalmouth tap-in at 16:29 of the third was the game-winning goal. The sequence which led to Paille’s goal began with a Shawn Thornton shot that hit Henrik Lundqvist and popped behind the goaltender. The puck never crossed the goal line, but Lundqvist could not find it and Paille pounced on the loose rebound.
As the Bruins celebrated, Lundqvist stared up at the pinwheel ceiling, frustration etched on his face.
“We were in our own zone way too long, because I couldn’t win a freakin’ draw,” Boyle said. “We want to put them in their zone, get some offensive zone time that way. And it’s a lot of pressure for our [defense], and it’s a lot of zone time for them to try to create offense. Because I can’t win a freakin’ draw. Again, there’s another opportunity on Thursday to do a better job.”
Boyle was 4-for-21 in the faceoff circle during 19:41 of ice time last night.
The only reason the Rangers were in the game was due to the reigning Vezina winner. Lundqvist made 31 saves in the loss, including spectacular stops in the first period when he stoned Tyler Seguin on a breakaway after Anton Stralman was unable to keep the puck in at the Bruins’ blueline, and consecutive door-step saves on Jaromir Jagr.
“The season is on the line,” Lundqvist said. “You have to leave everything out there. Preparation and the effort have to be there, and we will see if it’s going to be enough. We definitely have to give everything right now, mentally and physically, and put it out there on Thursday.”
Both of Boston’s goals came in the third period and both were directly attributable to the Bruins’ fourth line.
Johnny Boychuk tied the game at 1-1 3:10 into the period with his fourth goal of the playoffs following a shift in which grinding forwards Thornton, Paille and Gregory Campbell were able to keep the puck below the goal line. Paille and Campbell were credited with assists on the goal, while Thornton was part of a two-man screen, along with Campbell, which obstructed Lundqvist’s vision.
“It’s just the little things that we’re making mistakes on,” Dan Girardi said. “They are a very opportunistic team and they have really good players. They are making us pay.”
Taylor Pyatt opened the scoring 3:53 into the second by tipping Ryan McDonagh’s point shot past Tuukka Rask. Pyatt tied up Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara in front of Rask as McDonagh ripped a shot from inside the blue line.
Pyatt’s goal marked the first time since the 2:55 mark of the third period of Game 1 the Rangers had a lead in the series.
They would get no more. The Rangers did not score on either of their two power plays and are 2-for-38 in the playoffs. The Rangers generated just 24 shots on goal, and attempted 60 shots. By comparison, Boston had 75 shot attempts.
“That’s where you establish all of your offense, off the forecheck,” Rick Nash said. “We haven’t been getting it consistently enough for a full 60 [minutes]. I think [the lack of offense] is a combination of the forecheck, special teams and not bearing down on our opportunities. The last game we had a bunch. Tonight we had a couple and we just didn’t bear down enough.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.