If Sunday night’s 2-1 victory by the Bruins at Madison Square Garden is any indication how a playoff series would go, the NHL and hockey-crazed fans should pray to the ice gods that it happens.
The Bruins' first win in four meetings clinched the Northeast Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference for Boston.
The Rangers entered the game on a five-game winning streak, but the Bruins have been playing well of late too, and finally figured out a way to beat New York.
"We hadn't had any success against them this year so we really wanted to come out with a win in case we meet them in the playoffs," goalie Tim Thomas told reporters in New York.
"That was our goal tonight," Dennis Seidenberg said. "Get a win against them and send a message just in case we see them in the playoffs."
The Rangers took an early lead. On a faceoff the New York offensive zone, Boston gained control off the drop and Zdeno Chara stepped into a one-timer that drilled teammate Jordan Caron. The puck ricocheted out to the neutral zone and the Rangers’ Marian Gaborik got to the puck first, gained possession and beat Thomas on a breakaway to the five-hole at 4:33 of the first period to give New York a 1-0 lead.
In his first game back after missing the last two due to injury, Seidenberg scored at 4:00 of the second period to tie it, 1-1.
The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron notched the go-ahead tally when he scored a power-play goal at 11:52 of the second period to give Boston a 2-1 lead. It was Bergeron’s 22nd goal of the season. It was also the first time this season the Bruins have capitalized on the man-advantage against the Rangers.
Masked men: Thomas and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist both were solid. Thomas, playing in his 18th game in the last 20, made 33 saves, while Lundqvist, playing his ninth straight game, made 19. If these teams do meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the netminders will be a major factor.
“It’s always a one goal game against these guys," Lundqvist said. "They are really good through the neutral zone, and in their defensive zone they are really stingy. And Thomas played really well for them.”
“We played a good hockey game. Thomas was the difference," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He made some key saves at some key times. It’s the type of game, these games against Boston, it’s just that one little mistake and it goes into the net. Unfortunately, it’s hard. These are hard games.”
Welcome back: Seidenberg missed the previous two games with a leg infection, but was able to return against the Rangers and showed no ill effects. In fact, he netted his fourth goal of the season when his one-timer from the point beat Lundqvist to tie the game at 1-1 at the four-minute mark of the second period. Seidenberg suffered a laceration on March 24 at Los Angeles, but was able to play the next two games before the infection kept him out of the lineup against the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.
Up next: The Bruins are down to three regular-season games. Boston will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday at TD Garden before heading to Ottawa on Thursday to face the Senators, which could be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup. The Bruins close out the 2011-12 regular season when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.