Tough day at the office for Linus Ullmark. The new Bruins goalie, hired on over the summer as the club’s high-priced free agent signing, fell prey to an acute case of the netminding yips Saturday night and handed the Rangers a 4-3 overtime victory at the Garden.
Under no pressure after collecting a safety valve pass from teammate David Pastrnak, a flustered Ullmark dished the puck directly to Ranger forechecker Alexis Lafreniere and the second-year forward converted an easy doorstep gimme for the win.
No one much cares about preseason records — wins, losses, or otherwise — but the boo-boo, if nothing else, showed that Ullmark still needs substantial sharpening before things get real with the start of the new NHL season for the Bruins on Oct. 16.
“Tough to say, I tried to have my eyes up ice….,” said the ever-good-natured Ullmark, asked what options he was considering prior to the faux pas, “…to see if there were any available plays. That’s one of the mistakes that happened. I probably should just take it behind the net, get some cover, and live to fight another day instead of try to force something.”
It was Ullmark’s first full game of the preseason, an unveiling of sorts in front of the Garden crowd. As coming-out parties go, it was the kind of ending that would make any goalie want to crawl into a hole, 4-by-6-feet or otherwise. The 6-foot-4-inch Ullmark is a legit NHL stopper, but his overall game showed that he still needs work.
“He just made a mistake,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Their player made a good play not to give up on it… if he gets it by that player, obviously it’s a 3-on-2 [headed the other way], so…. I have to look at it closer, to see where everyone else was, but you expect him to move it past [the forechecker] or to make a play to one of our guys coming back.”
Ullmark will start the season in a job share with rookie Jeremy Swayman, the latter looking sharp in his 60-minute effort on Thursday, a 4-2 win over Philly. Based on each of their starts, Swayman would have be the choice for the season opener vs. Dallas. But much can change in a span of two weeks.
“It’s preseason, these things happen,” said Ullmark. “Just got to move on from it, learn from it.”
In a first full game with a new team, noted Ullmark, there always will be some communication issues.
“Some things need to be dealt with, obviously,” he said when asked about his overall game. “Just got to go back to it and plug away, go over it with [goalie coach Bob Essensa] tomorrow and see what we can change…just one of those days.”
Brad Marchand snags shorty
The Bruins scored in all situations — even strength, power play, and shorthanded — to mount a 3-2 lead in the first.
No surprise, the shorty was delivered by Brad Marchand, who will enter the new season as the league leader in shorthanded strikes (31). Racing in on the left side, he zipped by a flatfooted, stumbling Matt Robertson and finished by roofing a doorstep backhander. Bruins, 3-1, with a big assist by the Ranger pratfall.
Pastrnak connected for the game-opener at 2:39, snapping in Patrice Bergeron’s long feed from the slot, a laser from the base of the left wing circle.
The Rangers needed only 25 seconds to counter, Ryan Strome knocking home the equalizer at the left post. The initial shot, by Nils Lundkvist from the right wing circle, went wide right, and the alert Strome grabbed the loose puck and made the tuck before Ullmark could cover the open post. Tough bounce, but a more alert Ullmark would have had it covered. Just not sharp enough.
Bergeron was back with one of his own at 5:04, converting a drop pass that Mike Reilly feathered directly into his path in the right wing circle. Aggressive play by Reilly, to be that deep on the rush, and the drop pass was perfectly placed.
After Marchand’s shorty made it 3-1, ex-Blues forward Sammy Blais made a net-front tip of a Lundkvist shot on the power play to close the lead to 3-2 with only 51 seconds to go before the break.
Canton’s Kevin Rooney scores
Kevin Rooney, from Canton and Providence College (2016) knotted it for the Rangers in the third period, 3-3, scoring on a penalty shot that was awarded while the Bruins were on a power play.
Rooney, 28, cruised into the slot and beat Ullmark with a short-range wrister that was low to Ullmark’s blocker side with 8:55 to go. The penalty shot was awarded to the Rangers during a Boston power play (that kind of night). Charlie McAvoy hindered Rooney’s path on a shorthanded attempt, leading to the free try.
Brady Lyle finds his form alongside Matt Grzelcyk
Blueline prospect Brady Lyle, signed as an undrafted free agent for Providence last season, was impressive in his No. 3 pairing with Matt Grzelcyk. He picked up an assist and logged 16:13 in ice time.
Lyle, 22, was signed out of OHL Owen Sound, and delivered a line of 7-7—14 last season with Providence. He does not look that far away from getting time with the varsity, albeit in a No 7 or 8 role.
“Smart player, willing to get up the ice, make plays, certainly has an offensive slant to his game,” noted Cassidy. “It’s about him understanding that the game moves quicker so he has to be in motion a little more — he doesn’t have the quickness of a Gryz, or the powerful stride of Charlie [McAvoy]. So he needs to stay assertive, stay in motion.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.