The Rangers and Bruins faced off in their second meeting of the season at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. New York took down the Bruins in Boston, 5-2, back at the end of November. Both teams are playoff contenders, with the Rangers having exceeded expectations this year with a very young squad that has stayed consistent.
For the Bruins it’s been more of an up and down year. The scoring has been much less consistent than other playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference, and the recent injury to star center, Patrice Bergeron and six-game suspension of left-winger Brad Marchand has only reinforced those offensive struggles.
The Rangers went into Tuesday’s matchup with the better team on paper, but their big weakness going into the night was the fact that they hadn’t played in two weeks. The Bruins capitalized in the 1st period, as forward Charlie Coyle scored a goal assisted by Craig Smith early on in period No. 1.
The Bruins’ defense remained lockdown through the first two periods, allowing New York few scoring opportunities and generally controlling the puck well. In fact, the Rangers’ star players on offense, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider combined for just five total shots on goal through the whole game, due in part to excellent goaltending by Jeremy Swayman.
Meanwhile, the Rangers’ own goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, who has been electric this year, was also dominant after giving up that goal in the first. Filip Chytil of the Rangers was able to even it up at 1-1 near the halfway mark of the third period on a goal with assists from Dryden Hunt and Braden Schneider.
Before a thrilling end to regulation, Shesterkin had to come out of the game temporarily as it was suspected that he may have a concussion due to a hit he took earlier in the third period. He returned for OT and due to incredible play by him and Swayman, who both made saves on late breakaway goals, the hotly contested matchup entered into a shootout.
In each team’s first three attempts, both Boston and New York scored twice, bringing the shootout into a do or die scenario, with the Rangers able to answer if the Bruins scored, being the home team.
Both teams then found it a tall task to score in the next five rounds, as a result was not reached until round nine, when Rangers’ young defender, K’Andre Miller walked it off by getting the puck past Swayman and into the net.
The Bruins had many opportunities to put that game away and couldn’t. Shesterkin may be one of the best goalies in the league, but he might’ve had a concussion, and the fact that the Bruins went silent for six consecutives shootout rounds is telling of their continuing offensive struggles.
What’s next for Boston
The Bruins need not panic yet. They’re eight points up on the next two closest teams, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at 50 and 47 points, respectively. Additionally, despite the disappointing loss, the Bruins also got a point for making it into overtime on Tuesday night.
However, the inability to score lately is starting to become a problem. Over their last seven games, the Bruins have scored just eleven goals and are 3-3-1 over that stretch. Not exactly playoff sustainable numbers.
Boston’s next two games will see them continue on the road, first to face the Islanders, then into Ottawa to take on the Senators. Those should be opportunities for the Bruins to add to the win column as both the Islanders and Senators have negative point differentials and are near the bottom of their respective divisions.
After that, it’s back to Boston to face arguably the best team in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche. It’s going to be tough going for Boston without their two best offensive threats, but these next few games will be critical for Boston to grab points and build themselves some distance in the playoff race over Detroit and Columbus.
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