Boston, MA – The Boston Bruins third period struggles continued against the visiting New York Rangers on Friday afternoon. With the score tied at 2-2 halfway through the period, the Bruins’ defensive breakdown quickly turned a tight game into a 5-2 loss with a heavy sense of deja vu. It was the third time in just two weeks that the Bruins let a game get out of hand in the final twenty minutes of play.
Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead on an Adam Fox High-Sticking penalty. As time expired on Fox’s infraction, Craig Smith whipped a wrist shot past Igor Shesterkin from the slot to beat the Rangers goalie blocker-side. The unassisted goal was Smith’s second of the season.
Ryan Strome tied the game 1-1 with just 5.5 ticks remaining on the first-period clock. Artemi Panarin drew Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril away from the front of the goal before delivering a pass in the middle to Strome for the one-timer. Panarin and Dryden Hunt assisted Strome’s third goal of the year.
Boston pulled ahead again at 6:51 on Patrice Bergeron‘s eighth goal of the season. With a face-off in the Rangers end, Bergeron won the drawback to Brad Marchand, who fired a cross-ice pass from the top of the right circle to Matt Grzelcyk at the bottom of the left circle. Grzelcyk drew the defenseman to him and slid the puck between the defender’s legs to a wide-open Bergeron for the tap in past Shesterkin (34 saves).
Hunt evened things at 2-2 at 12:33 when he banged in a rebound of a Ryan Lindgren shot from the point. Swayman made the initial save on Lindgren, but the redirected puck fell right to Hunt for his third goal of the year.
The Rangers thought they had pulled ahead at 7:28 when Chris Kreider appeared, to Referee Michael Markovic, to have pulled a “Michigan” on Swayman. The lacrosse style goal is when a player gets the puck on his stick blade and cradles the puck into the goal from behind the net. The play didn’t look to go in the net to the naked eye, but Markovic immediately stopped play by signaling that the puck went in. Upon review, the puck hit Swayman’s shoulder and then the far post without ever clearing the goal line.
A few minutes later, there would be no doubt that the Rangers scored. Strome carried the puck into the Bruins zone and dished across the ice to Julien Gauthier. Gauthier then fired a shot/pass towards Swayman. A streaking Panarin deflected the puck past the Bruins rookie netminder for their first lead of the game.
Alexis Lafreniere sealed the deal for the Rangers just over five minutes later when he one-timed a blast past Swayman to make it 4-2. Bruins defenseman Zboril couldn’t contain the puck at the Rangers’ blue line and then lost a race along the boards with Gauthier leaving Charlie McAvoy in a two-on-one against the two Rangers’ forwards. Gauthier dished from one circle to the other, and the former number one overall pick, 2020 draft Lafreniere beat Swayman, in a full split, with a shot top corner.
Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba added an empty-net goal with twelve seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on the visitors their eighth road win of the season.
The Rangers are 13-4-3 and sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division on 29 points. The Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals are in first on 31 points each. Meanwhile, the Bruins are 10-7 and are in fifth place in the Atlantic Division on 20 points. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied for first at 31 points as well.
“It was a pretty back and forth game,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think the third goal is just an example of guys… We didn’t play winning hockey for whatever reason. There was a breakdown in the structure all over the ice. Usually, when there’s a structure issue, we look at ourselves. Why aren’t we? Do we not get the message across?”
“But you have five guys who’ve been in the league a long time, so I think the onus has to be shared there as well. They have to know their roles, or their routes or in the forecheck of if their defending,” added Cassidy. “That turns the game. There’s not much going on in the third. You know there’s probably going to be a chance or two in a game like that. Both teams are mindful of the time and scoring. We just had a poor forecheck where they (New York) came through our three forwards. And then our defense, not sure they defended as well as they could, even though there was an odd-man rush. I’m not going to put it on them. That becomes a turning point.”
“We kind of pissed it away, to be honest, a chance to win,” said Cassidy.
“I didn’t think we had that bad of a game,” said Bruins left-wing Marchand. “We made a couple of mistakes that they (New York) capitalized on. They’re a good team. They have a lot of depth. There are some really, really talented players, so they are going to make plays. We know that. We had some breakdowns that we need to clean up. We did some good things too.”
“I’m not concerned at all,” said Marchand when asked about the third-period struggles of late. “It’s early in the year. We have a lot of new faces in our group. It’s a different year for us, a lot different than we’ve had for a long time. We have to build something again, whereas before, we had such little turnover; whoever came in just kind of fit into the group. But everything was already established. Now with the number of new guys that we have, it’s hard coming into a new team, learning new systems, and building chemistry again, but that’s what we have to do.”
“There’s a lot of stuff we need to work on; I don’t think we expected to come in and dominate from the start of the year,” said the 13-year vet. “We knew it would be a process to get our gamer to where it needs to be. We’re not concerned about games 17, 18. We want to be playing our best down the stretch, and that’s what we want to build towards. It’s like building a house; you have to build a foundation. That’s what we are going to work on and go from there.”
Boston hosts the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at TD Garden. The puck drop is at 7:00 pm EST.