The goal horn had sounded. The red light had flashed behind Henrik Lundqvist. The Bruins, off a point shot by Dennis Seidenberg, seemingly had made it a 3-1 game at 10:01 of the third period.
But Seidenberg thought it all looked a little weird.
“When I shot it, I tried to get it past the first guy,’’ Seidenberg said. “I saw his pad on the short post. I didn’t really see any room for it to go in. I was kind of surprised when they showed it was a goal. But I didn’t expect it to be one.’’
Video replay confirmed what Seidenberg had feared. His shot had gone wide left and thudded into the padding around the goal, not into the net.
Nothing last night, after all, was beating Lundqvist. The Bruins sent 42 pucks on Lundqvist, including 18 in the third period. Lundqvist shooed them all aside to backstop the Rangers to a 3-0 win last night before 17,565 at TD Garden.
“We can be fooled by our shots for,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I’m not saying we didn’t do anything right. We spent some time in their end. We had some good shots. We did some good things. I’m talking about overall. As a team game and as an identity of what we’re looking for, it wasn’t there.’’
The Rangers are the top team in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps the club to beat overall, for many reasons. Lundqvist is currently the lead dog for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie. Their defense, led by shutdown stud Dan Girardi (three hits, three blocked shots in a game-high 28:08 of ice time), doesn’t allow many quality chances. Up front, with captain Ryan Callahan pointing the way, the Rangers take advantage of mistakes and turn them into goals.
In short, the Rangers are playing the kind of game the Bruins once mastered. It is the type of game that has eluded the Bruins for too many weeks.
“We’re a checking team that scores. That’s our identity,’’ Julien said. “But right now we’re not checking and we’re not scoring. We’ve got to get back to checking. Checking is playing a lot harder, winning battles, and being really hard to score against. When you do that, teams get frustrated like we did tonight. We made a few mistakes and it ended up in our net. They beat us at our own game.’’
At 9:21 of the first, Zdeno Chara was called for delay of game. Julien didn’t see the play originally. But when he saw the replay, the coach acknowledged that Chara had picked up the puck.
On the following power play, good rotation by New York and overpursuit by the Bruins led to a man-advantage strike. Marian Gaborik zipped a crisp seam pass down to Michael Del Zotto at the left circle. Tim Thomas bit on Del Zotto, believing the defenseman would snap off a short-range shot. Instead, Del Zotto sent a cross-crease pass to Callahan, who had slipped behind Seidenberg. Callahan had an easy tap-in at 10:09 of the first.
The Rangers doubled their lead in the final seconds of the first. Ryan McDonagh intercepted Patrice Bergeron’s clearing attempt. McDonagh flipped a shot on goal that thudded off Chara and caromed past Thomas (17 saves) at 19:48.
“That’s a bounce you can’t prevent,’’ Chara said. “Just an unlucky bounce.’’
The Bruins pushed the hardest in the second. David Krejci, reunited with Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley, helped to create regular scoring chances when the line took the ice. But Lundqvist repeatedly foiled the Bruins. The best chance came at the 12-minute mark of the second. A Chara shot slipped through the defense and rolled into the crease. Lucic and Jordan Caron jammed at the puck. Lucic raised his arms, believing the puck was in the net. Instead, it had rattled underneath Anton Stralman.
“Lundqvist made some really great saves. Really close ones,’’ Chara said.
Early in the third, the Rangers scored a gut punch of a goal. During four-on-four play (Lucic and Brandon Prust were off for matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties), the Bruins tried to force the offensive issue.
Joe Corvo pinched on Brandon Dubinsky inside the offensive blue line in hopes of keeping the puck in the zone. But Dubinsky shielded the puck from Corvo’s check and sent a pass to an in-stride Artem Anisimov. Because Corvo had pinched, Anisimov and Del Zotto sprinted away for a two-on-one rush against Seidenberg. The defenseman took away Anisimov’s passing lane. But Anisimov snapped a wrister over Thomas’s blocker at 2:53 of the third to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
“If we could get one, we could get two,’’ Julien said. “But they came out and scored that third goal. It was a backbreaker. You could feel it on the bench. Especially knowing they’re a stingy team. It certainly made things a lot tougher for us. We had some opportunities. But Lundqvist played well for them.’’