NEW YORK — The Rangers went into Thursday’s Game 4 with a couple of monkeys on their backs. No. 1, they were down, 3-0, in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Bruins and they faced elimination.
No. 2, the power play was abysmal, producing just two goals in 38 opportunities in their first 10 postseason contests.
But Thursday brought relief on both fronts — the Rangers won in overtime, 4-3, at Madison Square Garden, which forces a Game 5 on Saturday in Boston, and they scored a power-play goal that tied the game at 3-3 at the 10-minute mark of the third period.
Rangers center Brian Boyle, a former Boston College standout, potted the man-advantage goal on a shot from the slot that beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
“It tied the game and that was good,’’ said Boyle. “It was a good pass by Derek [Stepan]. We can make plays, we’ve got to have the confidence. I thought their unit did a really good job moving the puck around and getting some opportunities. Derek just makes a great feed, so it’s there, I think, we just have to execute. We want to score on every power play. It’s frustrating when you don’t. You can’t accept the fact that it’s not working and say, ‘OK, it’s all right, we missed another opportunity.’ We need to be determined enough to go out and try to make a difference. Tonight, especially with Derek’s unit, they did a great job. We need to do it. The games we lost, if we get a power-play goal, it’s a different game obviously.’’
Boyle was excited to see another former Eagle, Chris Kreider, get the overtime winner.
“He’s been playing well and he’s playing better and better,’’ said Boyle. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. He wants to be a big part of this team. That’s a huge, huge goal.’’
Coach John Tortorella had a bee under his bonnet when it came to his decision to sit center Brad Richards. Richards, who has struggled, was a healthy scratch because Tortorella said he felt it wasn’t fair to put him on the fourth line because his skills are wasted there, and others are playing better on the scoring lines, so he wasn’t going to replace anybody there. But he stressed he isn’t punishing Richards, and if anyone believes differently, they are flat-out wrong.
“By no means is this a situation where I take him out that I’m blaming him,’’ said Tortorella, who recorded his 19th postseason victory, passing Colin Campbell for third on the Rangers’ all-time coaching list. “I’m playing Brad on the fourth line, he’s playing 7 or 8 minutes, it’s not good for him. It doesn’t work playing Brad Richards that way. But I also feel some other guys have played better, so that’s where he is right now in our lineup. I can’t put him in a situation otherwise because I think the other lines have stepped up.’’
So he used a different fourth-line combination in Game 4 — Micheal Haley, Kris Newbury and Derek Dorsett.
“Brad Richards is a hell of a hockey player,’’ said Tortorella. “He has had struggles here. It continues. Me putting him in that role doesn’t help him. It’s not blaming Brad Richards. He’s a hell of a hockey player that’s having a hell of a [tough] time. This is a Conn Smythe winner, this is a guy I’ve grown up with [in Tampa Bay], a guy that I love as a person and a player, but I have to make that decision regarding this.’’
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves to post his 30th career victory. He improved to 5-0 with an 0.98 against average, a .966 save percentage, and two shutouts in the last five playoff games at MSG in which the Rangers faced elimination.
“[The Bruins are] good but I am really happy with the way we responded the second half of this game,’’ said Lundqvist. “I told the guys before the game that there was no way we were losing this game, we want to keep playing. We owe it to ourselves, our fans. All our focus today was just on this game. It’s going to be a challenge [in Game 5], no question, but I am really happy we got this one.’’