Even one of the NHL’s best goalies was no match for the Ranger juggernaut. Their offense continued to score at a ridiculous clip getting five past previously unbeaten Boston starter Tuukka Rask to post a 5-2 win over the Bruins at TD Garden.
They were opportunistic scoring five goals on 24 shots as Rask had a tough night. The rematch from over a week ago resulted in an identical score. Like that one, the Bruins jumped out in front with Patrice Bergeron finishing off a nice set up from Brad Marchand at 3:44 of the first period. On the play, Ryan McDonagh made a rare mistake losing the puck behind the net and Derek Stepan forgot to take Bergeron, who got his second past Antti Raanta.
After a sluggish start, the Rangers came on with some good chances to tie it. However, Rask kept his team in front until less than five minutes were left in the first. On what was a weird play started by rookie Stepan, rookie Jimmy Vesey found Nick Holden open at the point for his first as a Ranger at 15:09. He let go of a wrist shot that sneaked through traffic past a surprised Rask.
The special teams of the revitalized Rangers came through big time in this game. They scored two shorthanded goals and a power play goal. The Bruins did nothing in three power play chances except drive their fans nuts. Careless play almost led to consecutive Ranger shorthanded goals late in the first. Following a big defensive play by Dan Girardi who saved a goal, out came Michael Grabner flying down the right side on a two-on-one with Stepan. His pass across for Stepan actually went off the center’s skate and in for his first of the season. A shorthanded goal that really swung the momentum.
On the next shift, Stepan and Grabner again came. This time, it was an unbelievable two-on-none with Stepan passing across for Grabner, who fanned on the shot. If he doesn’t, it’s in for a second straight shorthanded goal on one Bruins power play. Fans murmured. Could you blame them?
Trailing by one, the Bruins were put on another power play on an offensive zone Jesper Fast tripping minor 1:19 into the second. Instead of taking advantage, they watched as Marc Staal sent Kevin Hayes in on Rask for the second shorthanded goal of the game. He patiently out-waited Rask before firing five-hole for his fifth, giving him a three-game goal scoring streak. His play has been so much superior to last year. You can tell Hayes is a different, more mature player. He is proving it on the ice.
Hayes had the only goal of the second. Boston applied constant pressure. But they were unable to get one past Raanta, who was superb making 35 saves to earn the game’s first star. For a guy who doesn’t play often, he really gives the Rangers exactly what they need when Henrik Lundqvist needs a breather. In the first of a back-to-back with the talented Winnipeg Jets visiting MSG with splendid rookie Patrik Laine tomorrow night, Raanta was stellar- making several key saves to keep his team ahead 3-1. He stopped all 15 Boston shots in a busy second.
The Bruins didn’t give up in the third. Continuing to come at the Rangers and test Raanta, they couldn’t buy one. Raanta’s best save came on David Krejci robbing the snake bit center twice on the doorstep.
Marchand picked an inopportune time to lose his cool. After getting nabbed for holding, he took an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct handing the Rangers a four-minute power play. Even though they didn’t score on the first part, they kept possession in the Boston zone. Eventually, some more crisp passing led to Pavel Buchnevich’s first career NHL goal. Brady Skjei continued his impressive play with an assist to start a great passing play with Stepan making a brilliant backhand saucer feed across for Buchnevich, who didn’t miss from the slot. That made it 4-1 with 6:23 remaining.
The Bruins responded thanks to a neat tip in front by David Pastrnak for his team-leading seventh 1:09 later which cut it to 4-2 with 5:14 left. The big forward parked himself in front and was able to redirect a Riley Nash shot by Raanta.
But any hopes of a late comeback were dashed when Grabner stole the puck at the Boston blue line and then fooled Rask with a quick snapshot five-hole 2:02 later for a 5-2 lead with 3:14 to go. It was his team-leading seventh. What a pick up he’s been. It makes you wonder how the Islanders and Maple Leafs gave up on him. It’s probably more the Ranger system under Alain Vigneault, who has so much skill up front that it makes them very tough to play against.
Their combination of speed and skill have given opponents nightmares. It’s why they’re 9-3-0 and in first place. They’ll look to keep it going Sunday against the Jets.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Michael Grabner, NYR (team-leading 7th of season, assist, +2 in 24 shifts-14:52 including 11:52 even strength and 2:55 SH)
2nd Star-Derek Stepan, NYR (shorthanded goal-1st of season, 2 assists, +1 in 25 shifts-16:19 including 11:27 even strength, 2:49 SH and 2:03 PP)
1st Star-Antti Raanta, NYR (35 saves incl. 15/15 in 2nd to improve to 3-0-0)
Notes: With a goal and a plus-one rating in 25 shifts (20:48), Holden is up to plus-11 on the season. … Mats Zuccarello missed a couple of shifts in the second but returned. … Chris Kreider also got banged up but also was able to return. … With another helper, Skjei is now up to seven assists. … Krejci and Ryan Spooner were each minus-three for the Bruins. … Matt Beleskey challenged J.T. Miller a couple of times but nothing materialized. … Boston held an edge on face-offs 30-26 led by Bergeron (12-and-9) while Mika Zibanejad went 9-and-10. … As a team, NYR blocked 18 shots including game high four from Girardi and three from Kevin Klein, who recorded his first point of the season.