AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy New York Rangers
Brad Marchand made the Rangers pay by scoring 36 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 3-2 win at MSG. His breakaway goal past birthday boy Alex Georgiev decided a well played game between old Original Six rivals. They’ll meet again on Friday.
For the Rangers, it was a second consecutive heart wrenching loss. Another winnable game against a tough opponent that didn’t go their way. Instead, they fell to 4-5-3 on the season. After going 3-0-1 over four games, they’ve scored twice in the last two defeats.
Offense continues to be an issue with both the power play and a snake bit Mika Zibanejad struggling. Zibanejad played well throughout generating quality scoring chances along with four shots on Tuukka Rask. But they continue not to go in for him. Twice, Rask robbed him. Once, on a great Chris Kreider pass where he fired a shot that a sliding Rask got across and gloved. Then, on a shorthanded breakaway when the Bruins netminder stood tall on a good shot.
Complicating matters, leading scorer Artemi Panarin got hurt late in the second period. It was a strange play during a shift that saw his leg get tangled. Clearly in pain, he limped back to the bench. He only saw one shift in the third while on the power play. It looks like a lower-body injury for the Bread Man. More will be revealed before Friday’s rematch.
Here’s the issue. Without Panarin, who paces them in scoring with 15 points, it hurts the top six. He and Ryan Strome seemed to be finding chemistry with improving forward Kaapo Kakko. Now, we don’t know what his status is for the next game. With yet another cancellation due to the Flyers having COVID issues this Sunday, the Rangers can use two points against the first place Bruins.
One-goal losses are mounting. They fell to 1-3-3 in such games. The positive is they’ve earned points in three losses. The bad news is they aren’t maximizing these opportunities. The only win came in Buffalo when rookie Alexis Lafreniere scored his only NHL point on an overtime winner. The top pick was noticeable during some shifts including one in which he replaced Panarin on the second line. But he remains stuck on one goal in 12 contests. He received over 12 minutes, but failed to register a shot.
David Quinn alternated between Phil Di Giuseppe and Lafreniere during the third period. Normally, Laffy13 plays on the third line with Brett Howden and PDG. In fact, he only had 7:28 of ice time through two periods with Di Giuseppe having even less. But they each wound up with more shifts due to the loss of Panarin at even strength. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if he can’t go on Friday.
The hockey in this one was entertaining and hard-working. There was a lot of skating with few stoppages during the first period. The defense from both teams was particularly strong with blocked shots a theme throughout. Adam Fox got in the path of four. He continues to play extremely well as the Rangers’ number one defenseman. There isn’t much he can’t do thanks to superb skating, smart puck decisions and good offense when the chance presents itself. He logged a game high 26:11 while Bruins ace Charlie McAvoy turned in 25:04.
With most of the first played in the mud, you had to work for your chances. That gritty style was perfect for the ever improving fourth line. Playing together for a second straight game, the line of Kevin Rooney, Brendan Lemieux and Julien Gauthier put together a strong shift to open the scoring. On a superb Lemieux forecheck behind the Boston net, he made a nifty backhand feed for a cutting Gauthier, who beat Rask for his first career NHL goal at 13:50. It was a splendid play that put the Rangers in front.
Even though he only saw six Bruins shots, Georgiev was sharp on his 25th birthday. He wasn’t shaky like the previous three outings. The rebound control was better as was his glove. He had a good game finishing with 29 saves.
Rask was even better. As was already mentioned, he denied Zibanejad twice with the glove save on a point blank chance leaving the first line center uttering some words to the Bruins starter before headed back to the bench. The encouraging part is he had arguably his best game. The skating and overall play was there from Zibanejad, who just had to follow through with the same effort on Friday. If he does, chances are he’ll finally snap out of it.
As for Rask, he tracked the puck very well to make 33 saves for the win. That included 14 of 14 in the second and 14 of 15 in the third. There’s a reason he’s one of the game’s best goalies.
Trailing by a goal, Boston started to come in the second. Taking the play more to the Rangers, they began creating some tough chances on Georgiev. Ironically, it was while on the penalty kill that they got the game tied. With Craig Smith off for slashing, a sloppy turnover from Panarin in the Boston zone allowed Chris Wagner to steal the puck and come in and beat Georgiev for a shorthanded goal at 9:41. It was a careless play from Panarin, who mishandled the puck and did a bad job recovering.
That was the only goal in the period. Georgiev was superb stopping 18 of 19 shots to keep the game even headed to the third. It proved that he was focused and made Quinn look right for finally going back to him after a three-game absence.
In the third, it was Anders Bjork who struck first thanks to a neat pass from Jake DeBrusk. DeBrusk was able to lose Jacob Trouba, who lost his footing in the corner. He then created a two-on-one down low by finding Bjork for the put away with 11 minutes exactly left.
Seventeen seconds later, Anthony Bitetto didn’t like a Wagner hit at the end of a shift. So, he took matters into his own hands and fought Wagner. He did well. Perhaps that scrap provided a lift.
Just over two minutes later, some more yeoman work from Lemieux resulted in Rooney tying it up with 8:38 remaining. On the play, Ryan Lindgren had his shot redirected by Lemieux in front. The rebound came right to a wide open Rooney for a tap in at 11:22. Rask immediately protested along with the Bruins bench due to thinking Lemieux touched the puck with a high stick. But replays confirmed that it wasn’t above crossbar height. Plus it was Rooney who finished the play to pick up his fourth point in five games. He’s played very well.
With the game tied headed down the stretch, DeBrusk thought he scored. His wrist shot surprised Georgiev, going through him and very close to the goal line. The refs immediately blew the whistle to review it. The original call was no goal. The replays on MSG were inconclusive. One replay made it seem like the puck touched only white which would’ve meant a good goal. But the other showed a bouncing puck on edge on the goal line. It was too close to reverse. So, the call on the ice stood. A lucky break for Georgiev.
As it tightened up down the stretch, neither goalie budged. The game predictably went to overtime. In it, one mistake by Pavel Buchnevich was enough for Marchand to cash in. Following a game saving play by a diving Fox, who made a lunging save on Marchand with Georgiev dead to rights, Buchnevich came two-on-one with Fox. Instead of shooting, he got duped by McAvoy who faked like he was going to take the shot.
Before you knew it, Buchnevich forced a pass in the middle right to McAvoy. He then quickly passed behind Zibanejad for Marchand, who had a clean breakaway versus Georgiev. The clutch player didn’t miss, going with a deke and short side to win the game at 36 seconds of OT.
The Rangers have to take some good things from the loss. They played the division’s top team well. But at some point, they need to win these games. Even if we don’t know what lies ahead with the Flyers becoming the latest COVID-19 victim, it’s time for this team to string some wins together. That also could mean the coach finding out what he has in Lafreniere instead of babying him.
THREE STARS OF GAME
3rd ⭐ Kevin Rooney, NYR (game-tying goal, 9:38 left in regulation, +2 in 11:54)
2nd ⭐ Brendan Lemieux, NYR (2 primary assists, 1 penalty drawn, +1 in 10:30)
1st ⭐ Tuukka Rask, Bruins (33 saves including leaving Zibanejad speechless)