Henrik Lundqvist turned in a masterful performance, but it wasn't enough to propel the New York Rangers to a Game 3 victory Tuesday night. The Boston Bruins got two critical third-period goals to take the contest, 2-1, and put New York at a 3-0 disadvantage in the conference semifinals.
The Rangers entered the night with a spotless home playoff record, and they did well in keeping Boston off the board early in the game. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, Boston would be up against it at Madison Square Garden:
It looked like New York might take an early lead when Jaromir Jagr was assessed a two-minute holding penalty, but the Rangers power-play unit hasn’t performed well in the series, and that didn’t change in the early going.
Michael Del Zotto and Rick Nash each got scoring chances, but Boston killed the momentum with very little effort before returning to full strength.
As Ty Anderson of HockeyBuzz noted, New York’s power-play failures didn’t come as much of a surprise:
Arron Asham and Brad Marchand would both come off for penalties with just over 12 minutes to play in the first, resulting in a two-minute 4-on-4. Boston got a tremendous opportunity when Chris Kelly picked up a turnover in New York’s defensive end, but Lundqvist made a terrific save to keep Boston off the board (via Bruins Daily):
But even that wouldn’t be his best effort of the period.
As Joe Haggerty of CSNNE noted, the goalie negated a huge defensive breakdown from his team in stopping two big Boston scoring opportunities just a few minutes later:
The Rangers weren’t aggressive in the early going, and it nearly cost them dearly. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of energy at the Garden—a huge difference from New York’s previous home playoff games.
The Bruins were far more aggressive, and it was a small miracle they were unable to find to twine in the first frame.
Tuukka Rask was the star of the first two games of the series, but he didn’t have to do much in the first 20 minutes Tuesday night. Despite facing 11 official shots on goal in the first, Rask was rarely tested with difficult save opportunities. Via Joe McDonald of ESPN:
The Rangers came out with more energy in the second period, though, and they got a big boost just a minute-and-a-half into the frame when Nathan Horton was handed a two-minute hooking penalty. New York had a couple opportunities, but once again wasted the power play without putting much pressure on Rask.
It wasn’t a lack of aggressiveness that doomed the Rangers power play in their first couple attempts, though. New York seemed to lack cohesiveness on the attack, allowing Boston to clear the puck without much effort.
But even after their second wasted power play, New York managed to get on the board first with 16:07 to play in the second period when Ryan McDonagh found the twine from 60 feet with a tremendous wrist shot past a screened Rask. He never got a great look at the puck, and it cost the Bruins a lot of momentum:
The McDonagh goal was enough to get the home crowd into the game, and New York seemed to be building off its momentum. Despite Boston’s first-period dominance, the Rangers found a way to pull ahead and put the pressure back on the series leaders.
The game would be a back-and-forth affair for much of the second period, but neither team was without scoring opportunities. With 8:24 left in the frame, Gregory Campbell had a big breakaway scoring chance along the left wing, but his shot was snagged by a tremendous Lundqvist glove save that likely would have found the inside of the post:
Horton nearly finished the job just a few minutes later with an attempt that banged off the outside of the post, but it was clear the Bruins were once again picking up steam. As slow as the game started, the second period was a good preview of things to come in the remainder of Game 3.
After two periods, Boston held the advantage in shots (23-16) and faceoffs (19-16), but the second period certainly seemed much more balanced than the first. For the Bruins to overtake their counterparts in the final frame, they would need to get through Lundqvist and a physical Rangers defense. Via CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty:
And they did just that less than four minutes into the final frame.
With traffic in front of Lundqvist in the Rangers net, Boychuk snapped a shot from the right wing that found its way over Lundqvist’s glove shoulder and into the back of the net. It was a huge momentum-shifter for the Bruins, potentially setting up an electric final 16 minutes of play (via Boston Bruins Twitter Account):
Boychuk seems to come alive whenever the Stanley Cup playoffs come around:
Boston’s momentum shift should have been a troubling sign for the Rangers. As Dan Rosen of NHL.com noted, the Bruins entered the contest 3-0 in overtime games, and New York was certainly hoping to avoid letting the game enter a fourth frame:
Boston held a huge advantage in shots midway through the third period (27-18), giving New York even more reason to turn up the aggression. The Rangers had some quality shot attempts, but they needed to find a way to get more shots on net. They simply weren’t picking up enough rebounds on failed scoring attempts.
With just under six minutes left, it seemed the game would be headed for overtime. Rask and Lundqvist were tremendous in net, their only blemishes coming on goals produced multiple-player screens. With two giants between the pipes, it would take a massive effort to end Game 3 short of overtime.
And that’s exactly what Boston got.
At the 3:31 mark, Lundqvist blocked a Shawn Thornton shot that popped up in the air and landed just shy of the red line by his left skate. Daniel Paille wrapped around the back of the net to poke the rebound in behind Lundqvist and give Boston a 2-1 advantage with time running out.
New York pulled Lundqvist with 1:06 to play, but the extra attacker wasn’t enough to even the score. Once again, Boston mounted a tremendous effort in the final period, stealing a critical road game from the Rangers to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
It was a fantastic outing from both goalies, but Lundqvist’s shining performance wasn’t enough to give New York the edge in Game 3. Instead, the Rangers face an elimination game at home on Thursday.