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New York Rangers’ newest member, Brendan Smith, wearing the number 42, got to start the game paired on defense with former University of Wisconsin teammate Ryan McDonagh. With Michael Grabner out after an injury suffered in the off-day practice, the starting forward combinations featured Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash as one unit, while Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello made up another. J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes reunited along with rookie forward Jimmy Vesey while the fourth line was made up of Brandon Pirri, Oscar Lindberg and Matt Puempel. Rangers’ Head Coach Alain Vigneault again managed to keep the early season dominate forward line of Buchnevich, Zibanejad and Kreider apart. It is the one combination he has inexplicably yet to come back to with any regularity.
The line changes didn’t help the Rangers to start the game. The Bruins dominated zone time getting high-quality chance after chance in odd man situations as well as to wide open attackers. If not for Henrik Lundqvist, who started celebrating his 35th birthday under siege, the Rangers would have found themselves in a hole on the score sheet. After an icing, Brendan Smith took the first penalty of his Rangers’ career for a hook behind the net to give Boston a power play but the Rangers were able to kill it off.
After the penalty expired, Boston went right back to work dominating the period, if not the scoreboard. The Rangers gained the man advantage for the final two minutes of the first period as Buchnevich was tripped but they were unable to generate a shot. They escaped the period scoreless while taking only three shots on goal to Boston’s nine.
The second period started with the Rangers playing marginally better. They drew their second power play just three minutes into the second frame. They had more movement and offensive pressure than their first attempt, but the 0-for-15 power play in recent games would make it 16 straight without a goal. Another depressing power play stat – they are three for their last 50.
The Rangers picked up their play after that and began shifting the momentum in their favor. They got off many qualify point shots only to have them blocked by the Bruins who crowded the slot. The few that got through were stopped by Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Each team had a couple high-quality chances in the final five minutes of the period, and the Bruins would finish the last minute on the power play, but both goalies were up to the task. Like the first, the second period ended without any scoring.
The Rangers killed off the remaining Bruins power play to start the third period. Boston would dominate much of the first five minutes of the period, but on their first sustained shift in the offensive zone, Buchnevich would patiently rifle a shot over Rask’s shoulder to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.
A few minutes, Lindberg added a second goal on a strong individual effort where he beat a defender one-on-one and then snapped a shot past Rask on the far side. It was his third goal in his last six games.
The Rangers would fail on another power play (1-for-17, 3-for-51), and Hank would lose his shutout bid moments later on a delayed penalty call on Nick Holden.
The Rangers went back and forth between smart defensive play and being pinned in their zone trying to hold on for the final 6:00 of the game as the Bruins pressed. David Backes took an interference penalty as he crashed the net on Lundqvist with 2:22 left in the game.
AV smartly used two defensemen on the ensuing power play and the Rangers tried to run down the clock rather than score. They were content to keep the puck to the outside fire most of the man advantage and play keep away. Boston managed to get Rask to the bench with half a minute left in the game, but wouldn’t be able to get another shot on goal.
Assorted musings: The Rangers snapped a two-game losing streak; Henrik Lundqvist moved into a tie with Grant Fuhr for 10th all-time in wins; Marc Staal has now played in the sixth most games among defensemen in Rangers’ history; The Rangers have scored 86 third-period goals, the most goals by a team in any period in the league; and the Rangers won their league-leading 22nd time on the road this season.