Simply, it was an image that illustrated the Rangers’ night.
Trailing their Original Six brethren Boston by a goal, the Rangers were on a 5-on-3 power play late in the third period following mindless penalties committed by Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara.
Ryan Callahan, the heart and soul and conscience of the Rangers stood by the post and tried to swat a puck past Tim Thomas and into the net. But one flash of Thomas’s pad and Callahan spun away and rolled his eyes in frustration.
That scene defined the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Bruins Wednesday night at the Garden.
On a night in which the Rangers wore their new heritage sweater, and former Blueshirts Steve Vickers, Bob Nevin, Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin were in the house, along with the NHL’s Jackie Robinson, Willie O’Ree, the current edition honored their predecessors with a commendable effort. The execution, though, was lacking.
Despite being credited with 36 shots, the Rangers were unable to consistently create the forechecking pressure and cycle game that has defined their season up to this point.
“I thought Thomas played well. There’s not much we can do about him playing that good,” Callahan said of the Bruins’ goaltender. Thomas made 34 saves. “Boston is a good trap team. They’re patient with it, too. They wait for you to make turnovers and counter off of it. It’s a tough team to get a forecheck against especially against their mobile ‘D.’”
Brandon Dubinsky scored the game’s first goal 7:10 into the second period. Dubinsky wired an off-wing laser from the right faceoff circle over Tim Thomas’ shoulder while Nathan Horton was serving a four-minute minor for high-sticking.
The lead lasted all of 3:56.
Milan Lucic tied the game at 1-1 with 8:54 remaining in the period. Patrice Bergeron forced a Dan Girardi turnover in the defensive zone. Horton picked up the puck on the half boards and snapped a gorgeous pass to Lucic, who stood in front of Henrik Lundqvist (15 saves, one assist) without another Ranger nearby.
Tyler Seguin doubled the lead with a spectacular individual effort at 16:35 of the second. Matt Gilroy lost the puck to Seguin at the blueline. The No. 2 overall pick sped up-ice and ripped a shot from the right faceoff circle that eluded Lundqvist.
The NHL’s oldest player, Mark Recchi, decided the game 70 seconds into the third. Recchi fired a shot off the boards, low, towards Lundqvist. The Rangers goaltender attempted to pin the puck between his elbow and his hockey pants. The puck rolled through and into the cage. Boston 3, Rangers 1.
“I usually stop that. I don’t know how it went through me. It’s just a terrible goal,” Lundqvist said. “I just have to stop the third one.”
Rookie center Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik combined to cut the lead to 3-2 5:26 into the third. Stepan came down the half-boards and feathered a backhand pass to Gaborik in the slot. Gaborik one-timed the feed for his fourth goal in seven games.
But that was as close as the Rangers would get. The Bruins tightened up defensively and what chances the Rangers generated—John Tortorella estimated that his charges “developed 19 or 20 scoring chances”—Thomas turned away.
“He was the difference,” Tortorella said. “He was certainly the difference.”
What went wrong ...
1 No advantage — Trailing by a goal late in the third period, the Rangers were granted a
5-on-3 power play when Andrew Ference high-sticked Sean Avery and Zdeno Chara was charged with delay of game. The Rangers, though, were relegated to passing around the perimeter and even gave up a 2-on-1 short-handed opportunity. They still haven’t scored a goal on the two-man advantage all year.
2 What a rush — In a game where both teams were unable to create sustained pressure in the offensive zones, the Bruins scored two of their three goals off the rush. Tyler Seguin’s was an end-to-end rush after Matt Gilroy could not keep the puck in at the blueline. It gave Boston a 2-1 lead late in the second. Mark Recchi pushed the advantage to 3-1 with a shot off the boards that trickled under Henrik Lundqvist.
3 Not great — Against a quality opponent and an equal in the opposite net, the Rangers needed Lundqvist to be great. He was merely good. Lundqvist surrendered three goals on 19 shots, as the Rangers dropped to 10-8-1. The netminder should have stopped all three goals.