NEW YORK — Things were not going well for the Bruins. They trailed the Rangers in the first period, 1-0.
At one point, the Rangers held a 10-1 shot advantage. The Rangers were moving faster than the Acelas that pull out under Madison Square Garden. Tuukka Rask was under assault. The Bruins had to ice the puck six times in search of relief from the New York attack.
It was the right time for the No. 1 line to submit a strong shift.
David Krejci sprinted through center ice and floated the puck into the left corner. Milan Lucic thundered after the puck. Lucic flattened Dan Girardi and J.T. Miller, sending both Rangers skittering like bowling pins.
Krejci retrieved the puck. Jarome Iginla gained inside net-front position on Benoit Pouliot. With a quick flick, Iginla tapped Krejci’s dish past Henrik Lundqvist at 18:07 to tie the game at 1.
The game-changing shift delivered the caffeine the snoozing Bruins needed. The Bruins scored five more goals, including three in the third, to claim a 6-3 win over the Rangers on Sunday to halt a two-game losing streak.
“They were obviously first to the puck and skating well,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “They were playing really well. It was a tale of two teams in that first half until we got kind of settled down a little bit. I thought once we started getting pucks in deep and we started getting our forecheck going, we turned things around. We were more physical. We won some battles. All of a sudden, we got more even with that. Slowly but surely, we took over with some timely goals.”
There was none more timely than Iginla’s. During the two-game slide against Buffalo and Washington, Iginla and his running mates were quiet as churchgoers. They didn’t play with the puck often. Their north-south skating was sluggish. Their offense consisted of one-and-done flybys.
It was no surprise, then, that their turnaround started with some roughneck hockey. Lucic turned the corner into his version of a dark Manhattan alley. Iginla staked his claim to the crease. With that goal, Iginla and his linemates gave the Bruins life.
“Tonight, it was the kind of game you have to play when you’ve got the size of that line,” Julien said. “They’ve got to be physical. They’ve got to be dominant. They’ve got to win those strength battles. That’s what they did tonight. From Looch winning a battle in the corner and Iggy standing strong in front of the net for that tip, those are the kind of things you want from that line. When they play hard and heavy like that, they’re a hard line to contain.”
The Bruins pulled ahead with second-period goals by Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg. But they welcomed the Rangers back into the game. Brad Richards snapped an off-wing shot over Rask’s blocker at 16:53 of the second. At 8:02 of the third, Hamilton was sent off for delay of game.
On the following penalty kill, Loui Eriksson set up a gut punch of a shorthanded strike.
Eriksson started the play by carrying the puck into the offensive zone. The Rangers were in good shape. Dan Girardi marked Eriksson. Richards backtracked to support Girardi.
Eriksson held onto the puck along the right-side wall. Instead of getting rid of it, Eriksson waited for help. It came via Gregory Campbell, who had rolled over the boards for Chris Kelly. Because of Eriksson’s patience, Campbell was able to sprint into the slot. The drowsy Rangers didn’t cover Campbell. The center tapped in Eriksson’s feed at 9:04 of the third for the game-winning goal.
“It was a great play by Loui,” Campbell said. “It was a good change by Kells that allowed me to kind of get lost there. Loui had the patience to wait it out a little bit and wait for me to come in and drive the seam there.”
The outcome, however, would have been the other way around had Rask not been in net. Rask was coming off Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Capitals. The Bruins want to pace Rask into the playoffs.
But Rask has a history of bricking up the net in Manhattan. On Nov. 19, Rask punched out 43 pucks in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the Rangers at MSG.
On Sunday, the Bruins needed Rask to be just as good. He responded with 39 saves. It wasn’t just the number of stops Rask posted. It was the quality of saves the Bruins needed Rask to make. Whether it was on breakaways, odd-man rushes, through traffic, or follow-up attempts, Rask answered the call.
“What can you say about him?” Lucic asked. “He’s been our best player all year. He even showed on the Olympic stage that he’s the best goalie in the world. We’re lucky to have him. Especially at a time like this, you need your goaltender to step up and make some big saves. He definitely did that tonight and kept us in there. It could have been more than 1-0 with the start they had.”