Despite playing their best game of the series, the Rangers fell short Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, losing 3-1 to the Bruins in Game Five, and losing the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 4-1. The Rangers had been 3-0 in playoff elimination games this spring until letting an early lead slip away in a final defeat.
Coming off their emotional 4-3 overtime victory on home ice in Game Four on Thursday, the Rangers played a passionate and gritty road game on Saturday, but the Bruins were just a little better in ending the Blueshirts season. Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves in defeat for the visitors, while Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots for Boston, which will move on and face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Though the Rangers scored the first goal of the game, they found themselves heading into the third period chasing a 2-1 deficit after the Bruins netted a pair in an overhwelming second period. Where the Rangers played a sharp, aggressive opening 20 minutes, they were on their heels much of the second period as the Bruins peppered Lundqvist with 15 shots---more than a handful leading to prime scoring chances.
Dan Girardi opened the scoring 10:39 into the first period, scoring the team's second power play goal of the series---and first man-up goal of the entire post-season on the road. Girardi banged his stick on the ice calling for the puck as he situated himself inside the Bruins blueline, and Mats Zuccarello slid the puck to him from the right-wing boards. Girardi stepped into a slap shot and drove his second goal of the playoffs past Rask, who was screened in front perfectly by Brian Boyle.
Both teams hammered away at one another with big-time hits in that opening period, with Boston's Milan Lucis credited with five of his team's 22 first-period hits on the stat sheet. There was also plenty of chippiness at, and after, whistles, and more than a few skirmishes broke out. Derek Dorsett and Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves 6:49 into the game, and plenty more venom was shared out on the ice between the two teams.
At one point Boston's Gregory Campbell screamed at the Rangers bench, and at another the two captains---Ryan Callahan and Zdeno Chara---shared vitriol long after the referee had blown his whistle.
The second period started with the same style of play as Chris Kreider leveled Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg---back in the lineup after missing four straight post-season games---twice on the same shift with solid checks along the boards. Kreider, the Rangers Game Four overtime hero, also dropped hulking Nathan Horton on that shift with a clean, hard check.
But the Rangers could not sustain their fierce play and Boston began to turn the tide. The Bruins tied the game at 3:48 of the second period when rookie Torey Krug scored his fourth goal of this series---this one with Zuccarello in the penalty box---blasting a right wing shot past Lundqvist to the short side.
A terrible shift in which the Rangers coughed up the puck on several occasions cost them at the 13:41 mark of the second period. After a Roman Hamrlik turnover at his own blueline, the Bruins fourth line went to work down low, and when Micheal Haley was a step behind his man, Campbell batted a loose puck past Lundqvist for his second goal of the series, giving Boston its first lead of Game Five, 2-1.
Dorsett took a pair of minor penalties---one at 18:53 of the second period and the other at 2:28 of the third---which provided Boston the chance to put the Rangers away, but the visitors killed off both penalties and remained one goal down with their season hanging in the balance.
Callahan nearly scored the equalizer 8:38 into the final period when, sprung by a Carl Hagelin head-man pass, he broke in alone on Rask, but was denied by the blocker of the Bruins goalie---his most important save of the game, and, perhaps, the series.
Two minutes later Lundqvist stopped Thornton point blank with his right pad, an immensely important save with just nine minutes remaining and the Rangers still only trailing by a goal.
Campbell finally put the Rangers away with an empty-net goal with 50.4 seconds to play.