Having disposed of Claude Julien as head coach, the Bruins opted for Bruce Cassidy as the man who would lead Boston back into playoff contention.
With amazing sudden success, the Beantowners went from flubs to phenoms, winning seven out of eight games.
That was before the Blueshirts invaded the home of Bunker Hill and challenged the new, improved Cassidy-ites last night at TD Garden.
But New York’s 2-1 victory was not accomplished with great ease, thanks to a late third period Boston push-back that just barely missed resulting in a tying goal.
OVERVIEW: While a win is a win, this one takes on more potency because of the previously red-hot foe. It also provided a fitting debut for the newest Ranger defenseman Brendan Smith from the Red Wings. Teaming with his college pal, McDonagh, Smith looks like an underrated acquisition in the manner of Nick Holden and Adam Clendening.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PLUS: Henrik Lundqvist celebrated his 35th birthday with his 29th win of the season. He made 32 saves and was utterly brilliant in the first period when Boston bombarded him throughout and wound up with nothing but a goose-egg. Henny’s 403rd career victory ties him for 10th all-time with Grant Fuhr in that department.
Henrik Lundqvist made almost as many saves as there were candles on his birthday cake as he led the Rangers to a 2-1 victory in Boston.
2. FOURTH-LINERS FIRST: Elevated from the AHL Wolf Pack, Pavel Buchnevich delivered a big goal. Ditto, Oscar Lindberg who cemented the win in the final frame. With several key skaters sidelined with injuries, the Blueshirts got first-line performances from their fourth-liners.
3. CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: Paired with his college buddy, new Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith’s debut was aided by Captain Mac. Late in the third period, with New York nursing a one-goal lead, Ryan prevented the tying goal by tossing his body in front of an empty net sending the rubber to safety in the corner.
TURNING POINT: Double-dip third period goals by Buchnevich and Lindberg deflated a hot Boston club that outplayed the visitors for much of the game. The 2-0 Rangers lead was too much for the Bruins, who were braked by Lundqvist after scoring one third period counter.
BEST SAVE: Lundqvist stopping David Pastrnak in the third period with a sprawling swim, preserving the Rangers fragile lead.
WHAT THEY SAID:
MSG NETWORKS ANALYST STEVE VALIQUETTE: “Lundqvist made four Grade-A stops in the first period to save the game for New York. Pavel Buchnevich is a smart hockey player who made a heads-up play to make it 1-0.”
MSG NETWORKS ANALYST RON DUGUAY: “Lundqvist wanted to get back on track and he did. He always plays well against Boston and he did it once more. It was a nice reward for a guy who needed a big game.”
OSCAR LINDBERG: “On my goal, I got a little lucky. My confidence level is pretty good right now.”
MSG NETWORKS ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “The Rangers got better as the game went along after a slow start. Lundqvist kept them in when he had to and the Blueshirts took over in the third period. I also liked the way Brendan Smith played, now that he’s on the Rangers defense.”
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “Right down to the last seconds, they had a lot of good looks. We weren’t ready to play in the first period, but then we got going. The Bruins had a lot of determination and I had to take it shot-by-shot and hope that the momentum would change; which it did. As for my (35th) birthday, all I wanted to do was play my best and help the team to win.”
Henrik Lundqvist speaks to John Giannone after making 32 saves in the Rangers' 2-1 win over the Bruins.
MSG NETWORKS ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “The most important thing for the Rangers was to get the goals after the start that wasn’t so good. When the Blueshirts turned the momentum their way, everything changed.”
ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “We had a hard time in the first period to make a 10-foot pass. In the second, we were better and in the third we had chances which we buried. Then we grounded it out. As for Brendan Smith, he did a good job. Lindberg’s goal was the result of a highly-skilled play.”
BRENDAN SMITH: “There’s a couple of bugs I want to get out of my game, but Mac (Ryan McDonagh) helped me out quite a bit. I love the team’s speed.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Like Boston, Montreal has been revitalized by a coaching change. The Canadiens are next at The Garden on Saturday. Game Time: 6:30 PM. TV: MSG NETWORK.
BOTTOM LINE: An injury-depleted Rangers sextet proved that it is a depth-loaded franchise. The under-rateds got the goals and Lundqvist did what he had to do in the final minutes — with a lot of help from Captain McDonagh.