After their gameday skate on Thursday morning, New York Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist openly lamented his poor luck, claiming that the Boston Bruins got some lucky bounces to be ahead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series three games to none…
In a scene right out of a classic slapstick act, Rask pulled a slip-on-a-banana-peel move, falling backwards and unable to recover in time to stop Carl Hagelin’s slow motion dribbler – a shot so soft that if the puck was going any slower it would have been going backwards.
The goal gave the Rangers their first score of the game and, thanks to a couple of defensive breakdowns by the Bruins, helped the Rangers eventually force an overtime – Chris Kreider taking a perfect pass from Rick Nash at 7:03 of the extra frame and sending the series to a Game 5 on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston.
New York’s 4-3 win at Madison Square Garden was a lesson in resilience, if not seizing opportunity as the Rangers switched scripts with the Bruins from the first three games – this time the Bruins looking tired and out of sorts, particularly defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton…
…Chara allowing Nash a clear passing lane to Kreider, who had beaten Hamilton down the slot to easily beat Rask high, glove side, after they broke from a face off in their defensive zone – a shockingly easy goal and end to a game that featured abrupt momentum swings, though neither team actually established dominance.
Nevertheless, the Bruins established a two goal lead in the second period, both tallies coming on the power play courtesy of a couple of interference calls on the Rangers.
Nathan Horton snapped in his own rebound shot and new kid Torey Krug fired a missile from the high point within three minutes of each other to take what should have been a commanding 2-0 – should have been commanding because Rask has been nearly impenetrable in this series…
…but when his skate caught a groove in the crease and he tumbled backwards, Hagelin’s marshmallow slid right by at a snail’s pace as Rask rolled around like a turtle on it’s shell.
“We need to be more focused, I need to be more focused,” Rask said. “I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something. I lost my balance and the rest is history.”
“We gave them a couple of gifts and it cost us the game.” he added, a master of the obvious.
The native of Finland was at the center of the second miscue as well. Only 1:15 into the third period, Rask went behind the net to control a puck for defenseman Zdeno Chara, taking his time getting back into the crease and giving up a clean wrap-around goal by Derek Stepan, whom Chara assumed would be blocked by the net but instead maneuvered inside and stole the puck from the surprised Bruins’ captain.
“We made some mistakes tonight, mistakes we haven’t been making, mistakes you can’t have, and they capitalized on them,” Chara said. “They made us pay.”
Tyler Seguin finally logged a goal at 8:06 of the third, snapping in his own rebound that Lundqvist couldn’t corral, the young forward exuberantly slamming his fist on the glass in celebration of his long overdue first goal of the playoffs and giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead…
…which lasted less than two minutes, as an uncovered Brian Boyle took a perfect pass from Stepan in the slot, beating a now beleaguered Rask easily for a 3-3 tie, punching their ticket to the eventual; overtime and setting the stage for Kreider’s heroics.
“It is so surreal,” said the 22-year-old Kreider, who scored just two goals in 23 games this season. “It’s not something that can really be explained. It is something that just has to be felt, but it was awesome. I’m just excited to give these guys an opportunity to play another game.”
And play another game they will, as they return to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday – against a Bruins’ team that are reportedly so angry with themselves for blowing Thursday night’s game that they had the most spirited practice of the season on Friday morning.
Hopefully they calm down and focus on the task at hand by the time the puck is dropped on Saturday evening – otherwise, it’s going to be deja vu all over again, and neither the Bruins nor their stressed out fans can take another series finish like what they encountered against the Maple Leafs.