RANGERS 4, BRUINS 2
BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images
NEW YORK — Under normal circumstances, the margin for error in the NHL is not very large.
Under extraordinary circumstances — missing half of the top six, rolling six regulars from last year’s Providence roster, playing a team riding a four-game winning streak — that margin becomes narrower than a Manhattan alley.
It’s why, after Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Bruce Cassidy was not satisfied with a 10-minute stretch in the first period. His players, most of them greener than the Incredible Hulk, could not stop the bleeding once the Rangers started delivering cuts.
“The first part of the game we had some passengers,” the Bruins coach said. “We’re not in a position in our hockey club to have a lot of success — maybe from the odd night — but we’re not going to win on a regular basis if we have passengers. We don’t need young guys to come in here and lead this club. We just need them to do their job. I thought early on there were some guys that weren’t where they needed to be.”
What particularly bothered Cassidy was how his players cracked in their own end under the Rangers’ heavy heat. The barrage started when Tim Schaller, as the low forward, couldn’t get a good stick on an outlet pass. Had Schaller been able to clear the puck, the danger would have been lower. Instead, the Rangers kept the cycle going, allowing Pavel Buchenvich to roll over the boards and attack the puck with speed. Once Buchnevich got a step on Zdeno Chara, he cut inside and slipped a riser over Tuukka Rask on the short side at 9:53 of the first to open the scoring.
“The start wasn’t bad,” said Rask (29 saves). “But that first goal, that was kind of my bad. I lost my post there. And then it’s 1-0, so you know the other team’s going to get some momentum off that. They made a push. We didn’t respond right away. It kind of got away for a little bit. Then we regrouped again. The good thing is we were in the game the whole rest of the way. Just got to weather the storm a little bit when you go down by one. You don’t want to make it too tough on yourself.”
The Bruins punched back 21 seconds after Buchnevich’s goal. David Pastrnak pulled the rebound of Patrice Bergeron’s shot off the end boards and slipped the puck through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads, tying the score at 1-1.
But the Bruins lost the game over a 29-second segment. North Reading’s Jimmy Vesey did the damage.
On the first goal, Vesey drove to the net, collected the rebound of a short-range Buchnevich shot, and banged the puck past Rask at 14:41. After the next faceoff, Vesey went to work again down low, this time on Rob O’Gara. When Kevin Shattenkirk snapped off a shot from the right point, Vesey gained position on the defenseman to find the puck. Before O’Gara could recover, Vesey beat Rask at 15:10 to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
“What bothered me was they were more competitive in front of the net than we were for the first half of the game,” Cassidy said. “Then we decided to get competitive and you see what happens. We get our goals and keep them out in front of our net. Tuukka sees pucks. Everything’s under control. That’s what bothered me. They were much more competitive in that area than we were. We got ours at the end. That’s generally hockey at times. You win the slot battle, the net-front battle, you’re going to do pretty well for yourself a lot of nights. They were a little bit better than us at that.”
The Rangers excelled at their game plan of crashing the net, funneling pucks out to the points, and sending them back into the fray again. Had the Bruins been better at boxing out, clearing bodies, and positioning themselves to win battles, Rask might have had sharper looks at pucks. But on Vesey’s goals, Rask did not have much luck peeking through the bodies the Rangers sent his way.
“They created some havoc out there and got rewarded with a couple goals,” Rask said. “That’s the NHL. People crash the net. You’ve just got to battle and try and make those saves.”
The Bruins didn’t tuck their tails. Lundqvist turned back all 13 second-period shots, including a Grade-A chance by Jordan Szwarz. Lundqvist kept stoning the Bruins in the third until Bergeron fired the puck past the ace at 6:44. The Bruins had their chances on the power play, including two in the third. But none of their six man-up shots went in.
“You want to get results on that. Right now, we’re not getting them,” Cassidy said. “It’s a good opportunity. We did a good job drawing penalties to get out there. But the most frustrating thing is the start again. We put ourselves in a bad spot. In this league, it’s tough to come back. We’ve had a couple moral victories or whatever you want to call them to show that we do have character and we’re wiling to fight to the last whistle. We’ve just got to learn quickly here not to keep putting ourselves behind the eight-ball. Teams are too good.”
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