NEW YORK — Up until Tuesday, the Rangers had not lost at home during this year’s playoffs. They picked an unfortunate time to do so, failing to hold a 1-0 third period lead as the Bruins rallied for a 2-1 win in Game 3 that put Boston on the brink of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here are some thoughts and observations from Game 3:
• Boston’s fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton can outplay most of its counterparts in the league, and on Tuesday night, it was the three hard-nosed forwards who broke through with New York clinging to a 1-0 lead early in the third period. On Boston’s first goal, the trio pestered the Rangers behind their net with effective pinches and cycles before defenseman Johnny Boychuk drove a point shot through a screen and beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist at the 3:10 mark. Paille later converted a shot at the doorstep, with Thornton and Campbell picking up the assists at 16:29. The initial shot from Campbell caught Lundqvist in the mask and took an odd backspin from the goal line into the slot before Paille knocked it in.
• After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien raved about his fourth-liners, with good reason. “They’ve scored some big goals for us in the playoffs,” he said. “We have confidence in that line. We’ve said it a million times. Tonight was no exception. They’re on for both goals…You look at Dan Paille’s speed. He puts defenses on their heels. Thornton is a smart player. He gets pucks out. He pokes in the right places. We use them because they’re good, not because we have to.”
• One-goal games seem to be the norm for these two teams. They’ve played 19 of them in their last 24 regular-season meetings, and the final score of Game 1 was 3-2 in overtime.
• After being strafed for five goals in Game 2, Lundqvist — who was rumored to be nursing a shoulder injury — served notice that he might be back on his game when he stopped Chris Kelly’s breakaway midway through the first period.. Kelly shifted the puck wide to his right and managed to get Lundqvist to commit to that side. But as Kelly pulled the puck back to his forehand, the Rangers’ goalie was able to drag his right leg along the ice as it trailed the rest of his body and stop the shot with his outstretched pad. Lundqvist turned back 32 of 34 shots and, according to Ranger coach John Tortorella, was “outstanding.”
• Some support for the King, please. Lundqvist has faced 30 or more shots 20 times in his postseason career. Though his goals-against average in those games is 1.54 and his save percentage is .941, his record is now a mediocre 9-11. Clearly, the Rangers are living dangerously by frequently depending on him so heavily.
• With their offense sputtering, the Rangers caught a break in the second period shortly after blowing a power play chance (yes, another power play chance; the Rangers are now 0-for-10 in this series, and a woeful 2-for-38 overall in the playoffs). Defenseman Ryan McDonagh backed up to his blueline, and when Bruins defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Zdeno Chara were unable to disrupt a very effective screen by Taylor Pyatt, he flipped a long wrist shot through the traffic and past Tuukka Rask’s right side at 3:53, giving New York a 1-0 lead it would hold until Boston’s fourth line did its dirty work in the third period.
• The Rangers had recorded at least one point in 92 straight regular-season games in which they led after two periods, dating back to Feb. 4, 2010, when they dropped a 6-5 decision to the Capitals. New York went 85-0-6 during that span and had won all 16 of its games this season when leading after two periods. That streak is now over.
• Call it self-criticism, but Rangers forward Brian Boyle was especially tough on himself after the game when discussing his poor performance in the face-off circle. Boyle won just four of his 21 draws. “We were definitely in our own zone too much, because I couldn’t win a friggin’ draw,” he said. “I have to do a better job on Thursday. I can’t be much worse.” Of course, Boyle also took a number of his draws against Patrice Bergeron, one of the best face-off men in the NHL. Bergeron won 14 of his 20 during the game.
• What a priceless look of amazement from Boyle when Jaromir Jagr threw a bodycheck at him in the second period. When Jagr is running on only one cylinder, as he has been for much of the postseason, he rarely throws checks, and certainly never against 6-foot-7 members of the opposition.
• Boston’s defense, from veteran leader Zdeno Chara to recent subs Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, has been especially proficient at moving the puck quickly out of harm’s way and preventing New York from establishing a sustained forecheck. “We need to have some time in their zone,” said Tortorella. “As the game went on, we were there less and less.”
• The Rangers played the third period with only five defensemen, as Anton Stralman did not return to the ice after taking a hit midway through the second period. Forward Chris Kreider also went to the dressing room after catching a high stick on the follow-through of a shot by Tyler Seguin, but he later returned.
• Ah, how the mighty, or at least the mighty talented, have fallen. Though he was a huge contributor as a rookie to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup march two years ago, Seguin has been fighting to find his scoring touch and, lately, other parts of his game, too. He played just 14 shifts for 10:41 of ice time on Tuesday.
• Memo to the Rangers: Trying to flip a puck over the long reach of Zdeno Chara is usually an exercise in futility.