NEW YORK — It’s not that the Bruins can’t contain the speed of the New York Rangers. They can and they have, most recently on Jan. 15. It’s that the Bruins didn’t contain the speed of the New York Rangers on Wednesday, that they made defensive mistakes that let them capitalize on that speed, that they mismanaged the puck, that they neglected to demonstrate the same want that they did in Saturday’s win over the Kings.
As Patrice Bergeron said, “We weren’t executing well enough to deny that speed.”
That led to a 3-2 loss at Madison Square Garden, just the Bruins’ second regulation defeat since Dec. 27. It also was their first regulation loss to a team not named the Blue Jackets since Dec. 19, when they fell to the Jets in Winnipeg.
“I think tonight’s loss was because of our effort and our discipline in our game and our commitment in our game,” said Milan Lucic, who scored one of the Bruins’ goals. “Those are things that you’ve got to find within. We had it against LA and you saw how good we can play, but tonight for some reason we wanted an easy game, and we end up with the result that we get.”
The result was that while the Bruins had come into the game having earned at least a point in 13 of their last 14, they left without adding to their tally.
Asked whether the Rangers’ speed was an issue, coach Claude Julien said, “No, no. We’ve handled it. We handled it well the last game. That wasn’t the issue. You can look at that first goal and say it’s their speed. It wasn’t their speed.
“We had our right D there on the other half of the ice, and even their winning goal, we’ve got our D jumping the wall there and giving them an easy two-on-one. So a lot of damage was self-inflicted on the goals against. It’s more about how we reacted versus their speed giving us some fits.”
For the record, it was the defense pairing of Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid on the ice for the Rangers’ first two goals. Both players finished minus-two and clearly struggled.
The Rangers opened the scoring at 5:50 of the first, when a pass by Seidenberg led to a breakaway by Rick Nash, who got behind McQuaid. Nash backhanded the puck past Tuukka Rask (22 saves) for his 32d of the season.
Though the Bruins came back with two goals, at 13:37 and 15:29 of the first, they couldn’t hold the lead. Lucic scored the first, roofing it stick side on Cam Talbot. The second came off a beauty of a saucer pass from Loui Eriksson, coming up the left side of the ice, to Bergeron at the top of the crease.
But the second period was all Rangers, and they converted a Derick Brassard score at 6:41, and the game-winner by Derek Stepan at 16:56. Of that second goal, which beat Rask glove side, he said, “My glove kind of went funny there. I thought I made the save, then looked at my glove and it was kind of all bent in a way that it shouldn’t be. Just one of those things, bad kind of luck, I guess.”
The Bruins picked it up a bit in the third period, but still couldn’t get the chances on net that they needed. And some of the chances they did get ended with chances the other way for the Rangers.
“Way too many of one-and-done, or one shot and out of the zone,” said Bergeron. “When you do that against a team like that, they’re going to get their chances off the rush. They’re going to use their speed because we couldn’t sustain and make a play in their own zone. By doing that they had the energy to go back against us.”
And this was despite learning before the game that they would be facing Talbot, the Rangers’ backup, instead of Henrik Lundqvist, who is day to day with a neck injury. Talbot became the first Rangers goaltender other than Lundqvist to earn a home win against the Bruins since Mike Dunham on Dec. 22, 2003, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Not that the Bruins gave Talbot a hard time.
It took nearly eight minutes for them to record their first shot on net, shades of the bad old days of a month ago. They had just six in the first period — though they scored on two of them — and 20 for the game, missing the net on 14 more of their attempts.
“They made it hard on us,” Julien said. “I don’t think we competed hard enough to get pucks to the net. We gave them an easy night, as far as that was concerned that way. They played well. We didn’t play well enough.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.