By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Chris Kreider's goal 7:03 into overtime lifted the Rangers to a thrilling, come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, keeping the Blueshirts season alive after they had lost the first three games of this series. Game Five will take place Saturday afternoon at 5:30 up at Boston's TD Garden.
The Rangers, who are now 3-0 when facing elimination in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, won for the first time in overtime during this post-season after having lost three straight, including Game One of this series.
After the two teams traded prime scoring chances in overtime, Rick Nash carried the puck over Boston's blueline on right wing, waited, and then zipped a perfect pass to a streaking Kreider cutting down the middle of the ice. Kreider had a step on Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton and deflected the puck up and over the shoulder of goaltender Tuukka Rask for his first career overtime winning goal. It was also Kreider's first goal this post-season, and set off a wild celebration inside The Garden.
Boston's Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton each had a goal and an assist, while Rask stopped 28 of 32 shots.
The Rangers tied the game for the second time in the third period when Boyle snapped a power play shot from the slot past Rask at the ten-minute mark of the period, tying the game 3-3. Stepan made a slick feed to the open Boyle, who ripped his third goal of the playoffs into the back of the net, the Rangers first power play goal of this series and just their third in 41 opportunities the entire post-season.
Boyle's goal off-set one by Boston's tyler Seguin at 8:06---just two seconds after the Blueshirts had survived a Boston power play. After a string of big-time saves by Lundqvist on Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton, Seguin buried his own rebound to Lundqvist's stick side at 8:06, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead at that moment.
Stepan had previously tied the game, 2-2, just 1:15 into the third period by scoring an unassisted goal. With an aggressive forecheck, Stepan forced Zdeno Chara to cough the puck up behind his own net, and Stepan pounced on the disc and beat Rask on a wraparound to the stick side for his fourth goal of the playoffs, and second of the series.
Six minutes later Stepan nearly had another goal when he and Ryan Callahan combined to create havoc near the Bruins crease while killing a Ryan McDonagh penalty. Though he didn't score there, Stepan's assist several minutes later on Boyle's goal was just as clutch.
Before the game could reach overtime, both teams surged over the final few frantic minutes. Rask made a huge save on a Boyle one-timer from in close, and Ludnqvist responded at the other end with a lunging glove save on Krug's screened blast from the left point.
Trailing 2-0, outplayed, and outshot by a wide margin, the Rangers received a big break---and a second life---at the 8:39 mark of the second period, a break that reenergized the Blueshirts and their crowd. Less than a minute after Torey Krug had lifted Boston into a 2-0 lead, Rask tripped in his own goal crease as Carl Hagelin sent a slow backhand shot towards the net. As Rask fell to the ice, he flailed at the slow-rolling puck, but it slid under his stick and over the goal line bringing The Garden back to life.
Hagelin was credited with his third goal of the post-season, and the Rangers significantly picked up their game, pinning the Bruins in their own over the course of several shifts. But the home team could not quite capitalize against a very defensively-sound Bruins squad, reaching the second intermission trailing 2-1.
Boston had outshot the Rangers 12-4 in the scoreless first period as the Blueshirts could not muster the desperation head coach John Tortorella said he was seeking, even with the string of lineup changes. New York did not register their first shot on goal until 6 minutes 35 seconds had been played--a John Moore wrist shot--and they had already surrendered seven shots to the Bruins.
The Rangers very nearly scored the game's first goal, however, when 20 seconds into the second period Ryan McDonagh wristed a shot off the post to Rask's glove side. Instead it was the Bruins who scored first. Nathan Horton beat a scrambling Lundqvist between the pads from the left corner for a power play goal at 4:39 of the second period.
Horton had originally looked to pass the puck to David Krejci in the slot, but Michael Del Zotto broke it up. The puck came right back to Horton, who quickly shot the puck towards the net, and it banked off Lundqvist's pads and in for Horton's fifth goal of the playoffs, and second of this series.
Boston scored another power play goal three minutes later, one that momentarily silenced the crowd and put the Rangers in an extremely precarious position. Krug wired a long shot past Lundqvist for his third goal of the series, putting the Blueshirts in a 2-0 hole.
But then Rask fell down, the Rangers had a flukey goal, and Game Four was far from over.
Most of the pre-game talk was not so much about the Rangers facing elimination, but about Tortorella's decision to scratch struggling veteran center Brad Richards. The 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has just one point in ten playoff games this spring, and Tortorella chose to shake things up by taking Richards out of the lineup along with veteran winger Arron Asham. In their place Tortorella inserted Kris Newbury---playing in his second career post-season game---and Micheal Haley---making his NHL playoff debut.