Sunday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers completed a lost weekend of sorts as they dropped a 6-3 decision to the Boston Bruins one day after the Blueshirts were beaten by the Flyers in Philadelphia, 4-2. It marked the first time since January 21 and 23 that the Rangers had lost two games in a row.
Sunday's defeat, coupled with the Flyers dramatic 5-4 come-from-behind overtime victory in Washington dropped the Rangers into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Philadelphia. and just one ahead of the Capitals.
"We'll get back to work and I'm confident this group will get back to playing that full 60 minutes like we had been," alternate captain Brad Richards said after the game. "It's been a fun team to play on the past 6-7 weeks, we've been doing a lot of good things. So we can't get down. It's two games and we can't let it snowball."
Dougie Hamilton notched a goal and two assists for Boston, while Jarome Iginla, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Loui Eriksson produced two-point performances, and Gregory Campbell scored twice in the third period. Tuukka Rask finished with 39 saves, including 19 in the first period.
Derek Stepan had two assists for New York, and now has four points in the three games played since the Olympic break.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, the Rangers caught a break when Hamilton's clearing attempt sailed over the boards for a delay of game penalty, sending New York to a hugely important power play at 8:02. Then in a game-altering series of events Ryan Callahan found iron on a rebound in front, and Boston skated the other way with Campbell finishing for a gorgeous shorthanded goal at 9:04. Instead of being tied 3-3, the Rangers were now trailing 4-2.
Campbell scored again off a deflection at 13:26 before Ryan McDonagh potted a power play goal, off a rebound, with 4:42 left to play. Lucic closed out the scoring, netting his 19th with 1:36 remaining in the third.
"They're a real good team, they have a lot of skill, and work hard," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said of the Bruins. "I think they are really good at battling in front of both nets, and that's where a lot of games get decided."
The Rangers got off to a terrific start Sunday--scoring the first goal, recording 14 of the first 15 shots on goal, and outshooting the Bruins 20-9 in the first period. However they skated off the ice after 20 minutes of play tied with Boston, 1-1; and the Bruins would turn things in their favor by the midway point of the second period, putting the Rangers in a 3-1 hole before the Blueshirts got one back late in the period.
"Tonight we probably had one of our best first periods of the year, but unfortunately we were not able to make the other team pay for some of their mistakes," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame.
J.T. Miller opened the scoring just 3:20 into the game, scoring on a clean breakaway against Rask with a pretty finish for his third goal of the season. He now has two points in three games since being recalled from Hartford to take the place of the injured Mats Zuccarello.
Stepan helped start the scoring play, and earned an assist on Miller's goal, by creating a turnover at center ice. Miller did the rest, collecting the puck and bursting past the Bruin defenders before beating Rask cleanly for the score.
From that point on the Rangers peppered Rask from all angles, and with a string of quality scoring chances, but the Olympic bronze medalist kept his team in the game with one save after another. His play paid dividends before the period was over when Iginla went hard to the net to redirect a Krejci pass past Lundqvist, tying the game at 18:07 of the opening stanza.
Even on the scoreboard despite being vastly outplayed much of the period the Bruins found their game in the second, controlling play and imposing their will with a fierce forecheck and plenty of physical play along the walls. Hamilton scored as the trailer off a feed from Lucic 4:04 into the second period to give Boston its first lead of the night. Then Carl Soderberg roofed a shot from in close after a lengthy shift in the Rangers zone--one in which defenseman Kevin Klein was on ice for nearly a two-minute shift--to give Boston a 3-1 lead at 9:34.
"We have to have a consistent 60 (minutes)," noted Callahan. "It seems like we are having lapses. Teams are capitalizing on us when we have those. It's a matter of us getting a more consistent 60, and I think bearing down on some of the chances we have."
The Rangers nearly cut into their deficit with six minutes left in the second when McDonagh's shot through a maze of players in front hit the post, and as several Blueshirts including Daniel Carcillo crashed the crease the puck ended up behind the net.
Three minutes later the Rangers did find the back of the net to pull within 3-2. Richards skated in on a 2-on-1 with Brian Boyle and ripped a right-wing shot past Rask's blocker at 16:53 for his 16th goal of the season, and the Rangers were right back in the game, until the match was decided for good in the third period.
This was the Rangers final game before the NHL trade deadline arrives at 3:00 PM Wednesday afternoon. The Blueshirts will play later that same evening when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.