Saturday, January 21, 2012
OT Thriller: Rangers Beat Bruins 3-2 In Possible Eastern Conference Final Preview
There aren't many NHL regular season games that get hyped up since with 82 to select for every team each year, you need to pick and choose what to devote extra time and attention to.
When the top two teams in the Eastern Conference-the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers-met this afternoon at TD Garden, it was the first time the Original 6 rivals had faced off in 2011-12. Not surprisingly, the game was spectacular even though the B's (30-13-2) came up on the short end as the Rangers (30-12-4) won 3-2 in overtime on Marian Gaborik's goal with four seconds left.
I had the same feeling after this one that I did when the Bruins lost to the Red Wings in a shootout the day after Thanksgiving. I want more, specifically in the playoffs. New York is a real threat in the East and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them and Boston as the top two seeds. Therefore an Eastern Conference Final between them (Boston vs. New York) wouldn't be too much to ask.
Other good news is that these teams will meet three more times in the regular season, starting Valentine's Day back at the Garden. Then Boston goes to New York on March 4 and April Fool's Day (both Sunday afternoon national games).
After a scoreless first period, that was still filled with action, the Rangers got on the board first at 1:31 into the second when captain Ryan Callahan (16th of the season) jumped out of the penalty box and beat Tuukka Rask (30 saves; 11-5-1).
Heavyweights Shawn Thornton and Mike Rupp fought less than two minutes later and although it was a split decision, Boston seemed to gain more momentum from the scrap. Andrew Ference (4th of the season) scored a goal for the second straight game as he took a pass from David Krejci and made a pretty move to his backhand to work around Henrik Lundqvist (32 saves). Milan Lucic had the second assist.
Gaborik (24th of the season) made it 2-1 at 14:30 after a blocked shot bounced right to him and needless to say, he knew what to do with it.
Another Bruins defenseman scored, always a good sign, as Adam McQuaid (2nd of the season) and his regal mullet whipped a wrist shot from the point. Rich Peverley and Ference had the assists.
The third period was scoreless as both teams pressed for the game-winner. Ference was whistled for a game-misconduct at 1:50 in overtime as he charged into Ryan McDonagh when the Rangers defenseman had his back to him close to the boards. It was an ugly hit and Ference admitted as much after the game. McDonagh left with an injury but he's lucky it wasn't more serious; as for Ference, the B's already recalled Steven Kampfer so they clearly think that Ference (who has a conference call with the NHL tomorrow) will get suspended for at least a game.
Boston successfully killed the 4-on-3 power play for over three minutes but Gaborik had three chances to beat Rask and you can't allow that many to a guy with his type of skills. Tuukka made two unbelievable saves but he wasn't able to squeeze the second one, Gaborik stuck with it and was rewarded with a clutch goal. Rask was understandably frustrated and his old temper showed itself when he smashed his goalie stick against the goal afterwards.
The Bruins hit the road for another tough test against the other true contender in the Eastern Conference: the Philadelphia Flyers. They'll play at 3 p.m. tomorrow, meaning that nobody and I mean nobody in New England will be watching it live since that's when Patriots-Ravens kicks off. Oh well, I look forward to watching it later tomorrow night on DVR.
You have to think that the Flyers will show up this time after getting waxed 6-0 on December 17 at home against the Bruins. It's another possible playoff preview. Philly won't have any extra rest over Boston since they played the Devils this afternoon and won 4-1.