Once in a while every season, a hockey team will steal two points when they should absolutely lose by three or four goals. Tuesday was the Bruins’ turn to receive a gift from the hockey Gods as they held off the Rangers, 2-1, at Madison Square Garden. Boston (14-6-1) won games on the road in back-to-back nights (4-1 in Carolina on Monday) thanks to 43 saves by Tuukka Rask (tying a career-high).
New York (10-11-0) had double-digit shot totals in each period and finished with twice as many shots as the Bruins for the contest (44-22) but it didn’t matter. Boston had to feel like it would be a long night after the Rangers were awarded a penalty shot a few minutes into the game and Dennis Seidenberg left with an injury after one shift. Rask stopped Chris Kreider’s penalty shot and Boston’s five defensemen hung in there even when Matt Bartkowski banged his knee into the boards later in the game.
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The fourth line was responsible for both goals as Shawn Thornton scored on a 2-on-1 early in the second period and Daniel Paille made it 2-0 with a backhander on a shorthanded breakaway. 1:01 after Paille’s goal, Derek Brassard finally got New York on the scoreboard with a power-play strike. Boston’s famed penalty kill streak ended at 33 but the team hung on for dear life to pick up two important points. Tampa Bay is at Los Angeles later tonight but for now, the Bruins are ahead of them by one point for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Boston hosts St. Louis (14-3-3) - one of the top teams in the Western Conference - on Thursday (7, NESN) at TD Garden. You never know, it could be a possible Stanley Cup Final preview for this spring.
What they'll be saying: Starting Rask back-to-back nights against .500 teams on the road seemed strange but as usual, Claude Julien looked like a genius as his goaltender turned in one of the best performances in the NHL this season. Needless to say, if Chad Johnson had started it is unlikely the Bruins would have ended up on top. Granted, putting him out there against the Blues (off to their best 20-game start in franchise history) seems like suicide but then again the thinking must be that conference games are more important. It was hard to tell what happened to Seidenberg but the fact that he left after one shift is not a good sign. With Boston running out of bodies, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see somebody called up from Providence (AHL) the next few days. Plus Bartkowski gutted it out since his team was already short-handed but his knee looked pretty banged up. They got off to a slow start this season but now the Bruins’ fourth line is back to winning games for them. It won’t happen often but it was nice to see them rewarded with both goals and Gregory Campbell also fought Derek Dorsett in the first period. I’m already running out of new ways to compliment Rask, can we just agree that he’s the best goaltender in the NHL at this moment?
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate