(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
As the game got underway on Thursday night between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers, it was clear that the Bruins were focused and doing their best to keep the positive momentum going under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. Given that it took the Rangers just over 11 minutes to get their first shot on goal, it was also evident that the Bruins were not going to make things easy for the Blueshirts. Of course, the Rangers had one of their most powerful weapons on the ice, and between the pipes, in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist is an elite goalie in just about every game he plays, but Thursday night was also his birthday. As the Bruins continued to get scoring chances on him, it was clear that when he made his birthday wish, it was for a win. He backed up that wish with some stunning saves, denying the Bruins on some truly amazing shots. His last two starts had been losses, the most recent being a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. Clearly he felt he had something to prove—more than likely to himself rather than to anyone else.
“All I wanted today was to win, to be honest with you. My wife asked me the other day what do you want for your birthday, I don’t know, nothing,” Lundqvist shared. “But then today, I want to win, that’s all. I want to come here and play my best and try to help the team get a win. It’s tough to lose two at home. You want to feel good about your game. You want to feel good about where we are. And so I tried to leave everything out there today and in the end we came up with some big plays, some big blocks and it wasn’t pretty at times but we found a way.”
The teams would go through forty minutes with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. It wasn’t until 5:10 of the third that either team scored a goal, and it was Pavel Buchnevich who got the Rangers on the board first. Buchnevich, a rookie, had been recalled Thursday morning from the Hartford Wolf Pack—the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. What made his goal all the more painful for the hardworking Bruins was that it was the first shot on goal for the Rangers in that third period.
New York doubled their lead four and a half minutes later off the stick of Oscar Lindberg, who notched his fifth goal on the season. The Bruins refused to back down and continued their onslaught—though some of their passes were questionable, not connecting with any player in some cases.
With 7:04 remaining in regulation, David Pastrnak made a between the legs pass on Nick Holden to get the puck to Brad Marchand who managed to stuff it passed Lundqvist getting the Bruins on the board and cutting the Rangers lead in half. It was clearly a momentum shift for the Bruins who were doing everything they could from that point to get the equalizer.
Unfortunately for them, with just 2:22 remaining, David Backes got called for goaltender interference. New York’s subsequent power play ate up most of the remaining time and certainly deflated the team in black and gold. Rushing the net, it appeared on replay that Backes had done everything he could to avoid a collision with Lundqvist.
“I obviously don’t agree with it. I think we can watch the replay—I think I’m going to the net trying to avoid contact. He comes up to initiate it, and I look and the ref’s arm is in the air and I sit for the next two minutes in a game where we had tons of momentum and we’re making a push at the end,” Backes said after the game. “And instead, they get a power play and kill most of the last two and a half minutes, and even then, we get a couple chances there at the end. But frustrating way to finish a game when we played pretty well through the whole time and we are making a push there at the end.”
The Bruins had a number of scoring chances, but whether it was a birthday wish or Lundqvist just doing what he does best in the crease, in the end it wasn’t enough to get the win. Boston will now have to shake this loss off and focus on their game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. New Jersey sits 14th in the Eastern Conference, and lost in a 1-0 game in D.C. against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. The Bruins need a win on Saturday, as there is very little wiggle room between being in the playoffs and out among the Atlantic Division teams.