NEW YORK — The Bruins banked their league-leading 85th and 86th points of the season here Sunday afternoon, working the icy acreage just blocks south of Times Square with the proficiency of a master pickpocket filching wallets during the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
The two Charlies, McAvoy and Coyle, each pocketed unassisted goals that built a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes, and then Patrice Bergeron slid home an empty-netter with help from Brad Marchand (who else?) to complete a tidy 3-1 win over the Rangers in front of a full-house 18,006 at Madison Square Garden.
The win, their eighth in nine games (8-1-0) since returning from their late-January bye break, sent the Bruins off on a three-game road trip with their manifest all but filled out for the postseason.
They have 22 games left in the First Season, buoyed by the confidence that comes with having outscored the opposition by nearly 3:1 (30-11) ever since taking their late-January 10-day hiatus. They now could play .500 the rest of the way and still finish with 108 points and one of the 16 playoff berths in the East.
If there’s a quibble of late, noted Bruce Cassidy, it’s the power play, which was shut out twice by the Blueshirts, who dropped to a fire sale 30-24-4 and know that not even ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s billions could buy them a spot in the postseason.
“It can be crisper,” said the Bruins coach, referring to the club’s power play. “I thought tonight wasn’t bad, we just misfired on one [a setup for David Pastrnak in which his stick shattered]. Earlier in the year, they were going in for him. That’s an area we’ll keep harping on.”
Otherwise, as Cassidy ticked off his checklist, the Bruins have been disciplined, stuck to their overall game plan night after night, and penalty killing has been a strong suit, muting 4 of 4 Blueshirt advantages here until Mika Zibanejad popped one to cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the third period.
“Not a lot to complain about,” said Cassidy, whose charges play the next three on the road, with stops in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver prior to next Monday’s trade deadline. “Obviously, we want to finish [scoring chances] a little better, but who doesn’t? For the most part, we’re getting enough goals to win.”
McAvoy, who grew up in nearby Long Beach, N.Y., connected for the 1-0 lead with 42 seconds left in the first. He collected the puck high in the zone on the right wall, snapped off a shot with Chris Wagner running a screen, and the puck Ping-Ponged by the outstretched arm of Alexandar Georgiev (31 saves).
McAvoy grew up an avid, starry-eyed Ranger fan, sitting in the MSG stands dreaming about one day being the kid who knocked in pucks from the point. He was living the dream at age 22, in his 174th regular-season game.
“Oh, man . . . a long time ago, maybe Brian Leetch, I looked up to him,” said McAvoy, reflecting on which Blue Shirts he watched with envy as a kid. “More recently . . . I don’t think any of them are here anymore. Maybe [Ryan] McDonagh [now in Tampa], he was there when I was in my early teens.”
Nearly a decade later, noted McAvoy, his perspective has changed — part and parcel with signing his new deal last summer with a payout just short of $15 million over three years. He is Boston’s franchise D-man in waiting, and finally is scoring to meet the billing (three strikes in nine games).
“I think I have kind of an approach now where I am just grateful for it,” he said about returning to what was once his home turf. “Just having gratitude for being able to play this game and live my dream — this is just a special kind of reminder when I get to come here and play.”
Coyle — of the East Weymouth, Mass., Coyles — jumped it to 2-0 when he managed a puck out of a pack near his defensive blue line and raced up ice to bury a doorstep forehander. It was his 14th this season, his fifth since the bye break, tying him with Pastrnak for the team lead in that span of nine games. The goal came with Marchand in the penalty box for a cross–check on ex-Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren.
“A bobbled puck, and I just made a decision to go,” said Coyle, crediting Brandon Carlo and Wagner for providing backchecking pressure that popped the puck free. “I got a bounce . . . and then got another bounce [on the goal].”
Zibanejad wired his in from long distance, the only one out of 26 shots that Jaro Halak (15-6-6) didn’t stop. Then with Georgiev pulled for the final 1:25, Bergeron slipped No. 26 into an empty net with 13 seconds to go.
The lights were out on Broadway. Next stop, Edmonton, the open prairie of Alberta, where Stanley Cups once oozed out of the ground like black gold.