December 16th, 2017 by

What we learned: Conference struggles continue

What we learned: Conference struggles continue

Thursday night a 5-3 thumping by the Washington Capitals.

Saturday afternoon Round 2 in a three-game set at TD Garden with another beast in the East in the arch-rival New York Rangers. Monday, the Columbus Blue Jackets come to TD Garden.

After a slow start, the Rangers caught fire on Halloween, winning 15 in 20 since. Friday night, they took out Los Angeles on Broadway. The depth of the Metropolitan Division on full display with the Rangers holding onto the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with more points than Boston at No. 3 in the Atlantic.

One Saturday pregame hype? Tuukka Rask vs. Henrik Lundqvist. Rask, looking to eclipse the .500 mark at 8-8-2. Lundqvist at 15-8-2. Lifetime vs. New York, Rask at 9-8-3 with a 2.29 GAA and Lundqvist at 26-12-2 vs. Boston with a sparkling 1.93 GAA.

‘King Henrik’ right back in goal less than 24 hours after the Rangers’ win over L.A.

Another hype: Thursday, the 10-game losing streak against the Caps. Not a whole lot better Saturday with the Black and Gold dropping their last six against the Rangers, including a 4-2 setback in New York on November 8. The B’s had not beaten the Capitals since March 2014; their last win over the Rangers was November 2015.

One of the game’s unique features? A lot of Rangers fans who competed for out cheering the Black and Gold faithful.

“It was pretty cool,” Brad Marchand said postgame. “I don’t think I’ve seen that too many times in an arena. A lot of Rangers fans came in, I would say. That was pretty cool. We were laughing a little bit on the bench. Definitely makes it fun to play out there.”

Here’s what we learned as Boston picked up a point Saturday, but not much more as their power play fizzled and their Eastern Conference play followed suit. The Bruins with six wins on the season in that department.

Déjà vu from Thursday; Grabner ‘bounces’ Rangers to early lead

At 2:16 in Thursday night’s game, a Lars Eller goal was called back for a Washington offside. Saturday, it was a Ryan Spooner tally from David Krejci at 4:25.

At 14:42, New York’s leading goal scorer added to that distinction – with an unlikely assist to Rask – when he launched a laser off the dasher to Rask’s left. The puck rebounded twice – right back out and then right off the back of Rask for Grabner’s 16th of the season.

PP works for Rangers – B’s 0-for-5; Heinen closes the gap

Krejci took two for high sticking at 2:14. Thursday night, the Bruins coughed up a pair to streaking Caps who blew by Boston D-men like BB shots in the wind. At 2:41, it was J.T. Miller in alone on Rask before depositing a backhander for the two-goal lead.

Thursday, a short-handed goal by the Capitals. Saturday, a 150-foot breakaway by Rick Nash for a shorthanded bid that Rask foiled.

Danton Heinen made it a one-goal affair at 17:12 when he deflected a Zdeno Chara zinger from the left point by Lundqvist; Krejci also assisting.

The Bruins ended the period on their fifth power play with 1:29 remaining heading into the final 20 minutes.

“There were problems,” Bruce Cassidy said about the man-advantage anemia. “I mean, whoever watched the game clearly – I mean, we struggled on the power play. We’re not going to hide from that, but it got us a goal later, so we eventually kind of got it squared away but we certainly had opportunities early to take advantage and we didn’t.”

Rangers 11-0-0 when leading after two periods

At 3:56, a sixth PP opportunity when Marchand was hauled down, while TD Garden howled for a penalty shot. Pastrnak would feed a cross-crease pass to Marchand who wasted no time in knotting the game at 2-2 at 5:38; Spooner also assisting.

“It’s not easy to come back in this league against a good team,” Cassidy said about the positives, “and we did.”

A seventh PP chance was negated with too many Bruins on the ice, leaving New York with 1:30 to take the lead.

Boston’s best opportunity was a streaking Torey Krug who was denied by a Lundqvist left pad at the 17:00 mark. For New York, a Ryan McDonagh bullet denied by a Rask glove with 60 ticks left in regulation.

Make that 12-0-0 with OT win

A second Boston too-many-men penalty at 1:05 of OT put the Rangers on a 4-on-3 power play. Fifty ticks later, Mats Zuccarello put an NHL shot on Rask from the right dot for the game-winner.

“It’s a perfect shot,” Rask said about the winner. “If you beat me like that, I tip my hat and you won because I thought he’s got no corner there but obviously he did.”

“I mean, we’re trying to gain an advantage there,” Cassidy about the penalty gaffe. “Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. We didn’t.”

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