Rick Nash returned to the Rangers lineup Tuesday night, and the Blueshirts responded with a rousing 44-shot effort, but the Boston Bruins ruined their night anyway handing New York a 2-1 loss at Madison Square Garden. It was the second straight defeat for the Rangers, and third in their last four matches in which they have totaled only four goals.
Nash started a bit slowly with some early turnovers and decidedly short shifts after a 17-game injury related absence, but his game picked up in the second period when he recorded three shots on goal, including one deflection of a Ryan Callahan shot which caused Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to make a difficult glove save. Nash, who skated on a line with Callahan and Brad Richards, finished with team-high-tying five shots on goal in 17:55 worth of ice time.
Rask excelled for the Bruins in goal, finishing with a season-high 43 saves. His outstanding performance in goal came on the heels of Ben Scrivens making 37 saves against the Rangers in Sunday night's 1-0 Kings victory. Henrik Lundqvist was again the hard-luck loser in goal for the Blueshirts, stopping 20 of 22 shots on Tuesday night.
While the Rangers speed caused all kinds of trouble for the Bruins, their inability to finish coupled with a pair of costly mistakes landed the home team in a 2-1 hole through two periods of play, despite a commanding 33-13 advantage in shots.
Time and again the Rangers won puck battles and generated solid scoring chances while using their superior team speed to more than offset the rugged Bruins size and power. However Rask ,who entered play with a sterling 1.64 goals against average and near-impeccable .944 save percentage, turned the Blueshirts aside again and again, giving his outplayed team the chance to grab a surprising 1-0 lead early in the second period.
Justin Falk got caught in the attacking zone on a Mats Zuccarello turnover, and the Bruins raced back the other way with Shawn Thornton beating Lundqvist with a right-circle wrist shot over the glove at 4:58. Boston then doubled its lead at 11:30 when the Rangers coughed the puck up at the Boston blueline while on the power play and Daniel Paille took off on a breakaway, sliding the puck between Lundqvist's pads for his third goal. At that point Boston had a pair of goals on just ten shots, while the Rangers were being held scoreless despite 25 shots on goal.
That changed a minute later when Derick Brassard blistered a snap shot over Rask's gloved hand at 12:31, bringing the Rangers to within 2-1 on the scoreboard. Brassard's power play goal was his second on the man advantage this season and his fourth overall, and was the first allowed by Boston in its last 34 times shorthanded.
Any momentum being built by the Rangers was stunted because of a pair of back-to-back penalties assessed to Derek Dorsett near the end of the period. The Blueshirts, though, expertly killed off both penalties and arrived at the second intermission trailing by just one.
Dorsett had an eventful night, engaging Gregory Campbell in a fight 10:47 into the opening period, and then hurting his leg when Zdeno Chara fell on top of him following a hard Brian Boyle check with three minutes to go in the first, before heading to the penalty box twice more late in the middle stanza.
The Rangers best chance to swing momentum to their side early in the game came just 6:16 into the opening period. With the Blueshirts skating on the power play Chris Kreider took a head-man pass from Zuccarello and broke in on Rask before being hooked off the puck by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
Kreider was awarded the Rangers' first penalty shot of the season---and the first of his NHL career, but his strong forehand shot was denied by Rask's right pad and the game remained scoreless. Kreider then had a prime opportunity to tie the game early in the third period, again on the power play when he burst up right wing, but Rask again was there to thwart the Rangers rookie. Kreider had five shots on goal, and attempted 11 shots overall, whule assisting on Brassard's goal, in a very strong night with 17:53 worth of ice time.
With Rask scrambling early in the third period, Richards shot the puck off the side off the post, and at 9:50 of the third period Anton Stralman's right-wing blast beat Rask cleanly, but hit the left post flush and bounced right out.