New York Hockey: Boston Bruins

Notes: Rangers out of depth sans Stralman

May, 25, 2013
BOSTON -- Defenseman Anton Stralman, a vital contributor for the New York Rangers’ back end in the 2013 playoffs, missed the past two games with a separated right shoulder, a source confirmed to

[+] EnlargeTyler Seguin, Roman Hamrlik
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesPlaying in place of Anton Stralman, Roman Hamrlik's turnover led to Gregory Campbell's go-ahead goal in the third period.
Stralman sustained the injury after taking a hard hit from the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic late in the second period in Game 3 of the series. He also sustained a facial fracture on the play, though his shoulder injury is what prevented him from playing Games 4 and 5.

Stralman’s injury only compounded the Rangers' already depleted defensive corps, which has played without Marc Staal for all but one game of the postseason.

“We don’t have our [Zdeno] Chara in [Marc] Staal,” Tortorella said, in discussing the team’s depth. “All teams go through it, so please, I’m not using that as an excuse, but it hurts. It hurts our depth. It put people in situations that, right now, I don’t think they’re ready to handle those types of minutes that there is with those players.”

In Stralman’s absence, Tortorella dressed veteran Roman Hamrlik for the last two games of the series. Prior to his Game 4 appearance, Hamrlik had not played in almost two months.

That rust showed on Saturday, when his turnover led to Gregory Campbell’s go-ahead goal at 13:41 in the third.

Derek dust-up: Rangers antagonist Derek Dorsett went to the box three times throughout the course of the game, beginning with a tandem of roughing and unsportsmanlike penalties incurred after dropping the gloves with Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton in the first period.

The scrap got so heated that the officials had to separate the two players on the ice, with Dorsett and Thornton continuing to jaw at each other from the box.

Dorsett also took slashing and tripping penalties later in the game.

Tortorella said he liked the intensity the chippy fourth-liner displayed.

“I’d rather have him at that level of not being able to control himself than a couple of other players on our team that I can’t get them to [that] level,” Tortorella said. “So, it’s much easier to have a player that way and try to tame him than to try to build a player up. I think he’s going to be an effective player for us as we move forward.”

Notes: Stralman sidelined

May, 22, 2013
The New York Rangers’ blue line, already without Marc Staal, lost another top-four defenseman Tuesday night when Anton Stralman was forced from the game in the second period.

[+] EnlargeAnton Stralman
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesAn injury to Anton Stralman further weakens a Rangers' blue line that was already decimated.
Stralman, who plays on the team’s second defensive pairing with Michael Del Zotto, was forced from the game after a hard hit from Boston’s Milan Lucic late in the second period.

Stralman did not play in the third period, which forced Rangers coach John Tortorella to lean heavily on his top pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.

“He’s played so well,” Tortorella said of Stralman after the team’s 2-1 loss. “That’s a big blow to us, as far as our matches and the depth within our [defense].”

Assuming Stralman is unavailable for Game 4, either veteran Roman Hamrlik or Matt Gilroy will draw into the lineup. Neither player has made an appearance yet in the 2013 playoffs.

Limited role: Struggling center Brad Richards, recently relegated to the fourth line with his poor play, saw a paltry 8:10 of ice time, only 5:58 of which was at even strength.

Richards, who might be a prime candidate for a buyout this summer, was limited to a mere three shifts in the second period and two in the third.

The 32-year-old veteran, who inked a nine-year, $60 million deal in July of 2011, has been held to one point this postseason.

World of hurt: Stralman wasn’t the only one to get banged up during Game 3.

Carl Hagelin left the game after taking a puck to the face in the third, though he returned later in the period. Chris Kreider also required medical attention when he went down to the ice, writhing in pain, after getting a stick to the eye. Kreider also remained in the game.

Power outage: The Rangers' ineptitude on the power play continued with another futile effort Tuesday night.

After failing on both man-up opportunities in Game 3, the Rangers are now 2-for-38 -- a dreadful 5.3 percent -- in the playoffs and 0-for-10 this series.

By contrast, the Bruins have had only one power play over the past two games.

Boyle: 'We're not done by any means'

May, 22, 2013
New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle sat in his stall, hunched over and frothing in frustration, but dead-set in his declaration following a pivotal 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3.

"We’ve got more hockey to play," said Boyle, almost breathless with exasperation. "We’re not done by any means."

It was the sort of statement that comes only in the presence of a do-or-die situation, and the Rangers face that now as they trail the Bruins 3-0 in their second-round series.

[+] EnlargeBrian Boyle
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesBrian Boyle was very frustrated with his poor play Tuesday in Game 3.
After dropping the first pair of games in Boston, the Rangers returned home to Madison Square Garden, where they had recorded nine straight wins, only to see a third-period lead evaporate late in the third with Daniel Paille’s game-winner with 3:31 remaining in regulation.

It was a waste of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s pristine performance and a crippling reminder of how dangerous Boston can be if given extended zone time.

Now, all that separates the Bruins from completing the sweep and punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals is Game 4 on Thursday.

"It feels like we lost a big game and that sucks," said Boyle, who was livid with his own performance. "There were a lot of areas I could’ve contributed more and that’s infuriating. Biggest game of the year and it just wasn’t enough."

Boyle’s line of Taylor Pyatt and Derek Dorsett was effective in a checking role when used to neutralize Boston’s trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr, but the hulking center was particularly critical of his play from the dots. He finished 4-for-21 from the faceoff circle, a feeble 19 percent.

"We were in our own zone for way too long because I couldn’t win a friggin’ draw," Boyle said.

After the Rangers built a 1-0 lead in the second period on Taylor Pyatt’s deflection goal, the Bruins won the puck battles and controlled the territorial game, with extended time in the Rangers’ end.

Lundqvist was stellar throughout the game -- stopping two backhanded breakaways in the first period, snagging a blistering slapshot in the second -- but faced far too much pressure.

After escaping the second period unscathed, the Rangers surrendered the tying goal to Boston’s Johnny Boychuk -- his fourth marker of the postseason.

"We knew they were going to push," captain Ryan Callahan said. "I thought we had a pretty good third period, but we gave up a goal and we don’t get one. It’s tough."

The thought of relinquishing a two-game series lead to Toronto in Round 1 provided the Bruins with the motivation to keep grinding, and they were rewarded late in the third with Paille’s winner.

The fourth-liner swooped in from behind the net to sweep in a puck that had deflected off Lundqvist’s mask and off the crossbar.


Are the Rangers toast?


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Of course, they’ve seen a commanding 3-0 series lead disappear as well, when the Flyers completed a stunning comeback against them in 2010. Philadelphia is one of only three teams in NHL history to surmount a 3-0 series deficit during the playoffs.

"We had to live with that. We still have to live with that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

Julien said this team, which also let the Leafs force a Game 7 despite entering Game 5 with a 3-1 series advantage, is playing on a whole new level now.

"I didn’t think we were in the zone [against Toronto] like we are now," he said.

That was a focus heading into Game 3 for the Bruins, as Marchand detailed Tuesday morning in the hours before the puck drop.

"We try to learn from every situation," Marchand said. "We realize we let [Toronto] back in it. We didn’t have that killer instinct. We want to make sure to try and step up and do the job."

Meanwhile, the Rangers are on the brink of elimination with a depleted defense, inept power play and a whole slew of statistics stacked against them.

The Rangers are 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0, and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, no team has ever overcome 2-0 deficits in two consecutive best-of-seven-series in the same playoff year.

There is also the matter of pride at stake, with the Rangers desperate to avoid the "S" word.

Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted his team was in a "tough situation" but said he had confidence in how they’d response.

"I have full faith in our athletes," he said.

The Rangers are a proud bunch, and determined. According to Boyle, this series is not over, no matter how well the Bruins are playing.

"They’re a good team. They’ve got some depth," Boyle said. "We’re a good team, too. We’ll show it Thursday."

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 2, Rangers 1

May, 21, 2013

What it means: The Bruins relinquished a two-game series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1 and seemed determined to not let that happen again in Game 3 of their second-round set against the Rangers. Daniel Paille snapped a 1-1 tie late in the third period, sweeping in a deflected puck to give the Bruins a 2-1 win and commanding 3-0 series lead against a stunned Rangers squad that is now squarely on the brink of elimination. New York wasted a fine effort from Lundqvist, surrendering an abundance of chances to a hungry Bruins team eager to make easy work of their opponents.

Make it four: Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk tallied his fourth goal of the playoffs, and it was a big one. Capitalizing on John Moore’s turnover early in the third, Boychuk’s deep wrister beat a screened Lundqvist to tie the game 1-1 at 3:10 in the third period.

Rangers strike first: Set up by Derek Stepan’s clean faceoff win against Patrice Bergeron in the offensive zone, the Rangers got on the board 3:53 into the second period. Taylor Pyatt, screening Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, got a piece of Ryan McDonagh’s shot through traffic.

Down and out: Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman did not play after taking a hard hit from Boston's Milan Lucic late in the second period.

High-sticking hazard: The officials missed at least three high-sticking penalties during the course of Tuesday’s game, and there was plenty of evidence to prove it. Chris Kreider, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara all were bleeding at various points throughout the game after catching sticks to the face.

Henrik stands tall: Lundqvist was stellar in preserving a scoreless tie during the first period, making clutch saves on a pair of prime scoring chances for the Bruins. Lundqvist stoned both Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin on backhanded breakaways, both of which were the result of a couple of Rangers gaffes.

Line matching: With the benefit of the last change, the Rangers deployed their checking line of Pyatt, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett against the Bruins line of Brad Marchand, Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr. Earlier in the day, Tortorella called Marchand "the best player in the series so far." Meanwhile, Bruins coach Claude Julien did his best to get hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara on the ice against Rick Nash whenever possible.

Gretzky in the house: The loudest cheer of the game came when hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was announced and featured on the Jumbotron.

Up next: Rangers vs. Bruins, Game 4, Thursday at 7 p.m.

Rangers readying for a familiar foe

May, 15, 2013
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- It’s been more than three months since the Rangers and Bruins last played, but New York still has a pretty good idea of what it’ll be facing in its second-round foe.

One of the deepest teams in the league, the Bruins' roster boasts substantial size and grit in addition to their skill.

“They’re a big, physical team. A heavy team,” said gritty third-line winger Derek Dorsett, who was key in setting a physical tone for the Rangers against Washington. “It’ll be a war.”

Besides a change in net -- Tuukka Rask is now the starting goaltender instead of Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas -- the Bruins have been able to retain much of their core group from their Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

[+] EnlargeTyler Seguin and J.T. Miller
Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY SportsThe Rangers and Bruins are no strangers.
Up front, mainstays like David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron lead the way, while Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton provide some sandpaper to their lineup and youngsters like Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand continue to contribute.

And of course, captain Zdeno Chara, among the most physically imposing players in the league, is still the anchor of their defense.

“That team has been the same type of team for three, four years. I don’t think much has changed there, even their lines. There’s a little difference, but we’ve seen Boston since they won the Cup that year,” veteran center Brad Richards said. “There aren’t going to be a lot of surprises. It’s gonna be about patience and a lot of defending, I imagine, and who sticks with it longer.”

Both teams are coming off their own seven-game series, though the Bruins’ Game 7 victory against the Maple Leads was much more dramatic than the Rangers’ 5-0 rout of the Capitals.

The Bruins erased a 4-1 Leafs lead in the third period, scoring a pair of goals in the last 1:22 of regulation. Bergeron notched both the tying goal and the overtime winner to complete the stunning comeback.

“Second round, it’s gaining even more intensity,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “You feed off both Game 7 wins; both teams [won] in kind of dramatic fashion, I guess. There’s gonna be a lot of energy for both teams and a lot of excitement.”

McDonagh played a vital role, along with defensive partner Dan Girardi, in shutting down the Capitals’ top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin in Round 1. Ovechkin, who captured the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer in the regular season, was held off the score sheet for the last five games of the series.

The Rangers’ top shutdown pair will likely be used against Boston’s top line of Lucic, Krejci and Nathan Horton.

If that happens, that will be an opportunity they will embrace.

“Their top line is really clicking right now,” McDonagh said. “Obviously, that’s going to be a task in itself to try and defend whoever’s out there with them. We’re gonna try to do it the same way we did against Washington, as a five-man unit, try to make them defend and wear them out that way.”

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

February, 12, 2013

What it means: The Bruins erased a 3-0 deficit with a trio of goals in the third period -- two which came in the final 1:31 in regulation -- to force overtime, but captain Ryan Callahan's deciding goal in the shootout gave the Rangers a 4-3 win in Boston on Tuesday night. Callahan's winner, scored in the fourth round of the shootout, led the Rangers to their third straight victory -- the club's longest winning streak this season.

Hometown rally: With their goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, the Bruins tallied twice in the final minutes of regulation on goals from Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand to earn a point and push the game to overtime. Marchand's equalizer was his seventh goal in 10 games.

Great passing play: Rangers winger Rick Nash made the play of the game, dishing off to a wide-open Carl Hagelin on the left wing after getting tripped up by Bruins defensemen Andrew Ference in the offensive zone. Nash's stellar set-up, his seventh assist of the season, gave Hagelin his third goal in two games. Oddly enough, the man who was responsible for trading Nash to the Rangers last summer, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, was fired by Columbus just minutes after Nash's deft play.

Stepping up: Center Derek Stepan capitalized on a giveaway by Milan Lucic, corralling a loose puck and firing one past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask for a 2-0 Rangers lead at 8:17 of the second period.

Too many times: Rangers coach John Tortorella was understandably livid after his club took its sixth too-many-men penalty of the season. Although it was defenseman Anton Stralman who incurred Tortorella's wrath Tuesday, the Rangers have had a rotating cast of characters responsible for the abundance of boneheaded bench minors.

Long drought: After missing out on yet another 5-on-3 power-play opportunity in the third, Stralman padded the team's lead with his first regular-season goal in more than a year. Stralman trickled one past Rask for a 3-0 Rangers lead at 2:07.

Scratched again: Rangers forward and Boston native Brian Boyle was scratched for the third straight game Tuesday. After the team’s morning skate, the hulking center described the benching as "infuriating."

2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Who's hot?

April, 8, 2012
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard playoff prognosticators discuss the importance of a team entering the playoffs on a hot streak, well, I probably wouldn't be staring down a microwave burrito for lunch right now. In any sport, people place a lot of emphasis on team's "peaking at the right time." New York fans only need to dial back to this past winter to recall sports soothsayers uttering as much about the New York Giants. And we all know how that played out.

So, who's hot in hockey? Here's a quick look at the Eastern Conference over the last 11 games (I added an extra game to help account for some teams resting stars in the stretch run) to see how the first-round series stack up.

Above you can really see the importance of the Rangers finishing first overall in the East. Not only do they get to face Ottawa -- one of just two teams with a negative goal differential over the last 11 games, not to mention a team that's lost three in a row -- but due to the NHL's re-seeding rules, a Rangers win in the first round could likely set up a meeting with the New Jersey Devils instead of the Philadelphia Flyers or the smoking-hot Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Not to mention, the No. 1 seed assures the Rangers they won't meet the Boston Bruins -- who seem to have entered into the same late-season beast mode that carried them to the 2011 Stanley Cup -- until the Eastern Conference Finals.

But let's jump back a step. Why do I think there could be an upset in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 game?

Thanks to a win by the Florida Panthers in their regular season finale, the Devils get to play the other team with a negative goal differential, ironically a Division champ, instead of the Washington Capitals. Averaging just two goals per game over their last 11 contests, the Panthers aren't going to inspire too much fear in anyone with their recent play. And that's particularly true given their heavy reliance on OT losses just to make the postseason field.

While certainly nothing is guaranteed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a look at this simple heat index says the odds could be downright decent for a Rangers-Devils postseason grudge match.

Paging Stephane Matteau ...

W2W4: Rangers vs. Bruins

April, 1, 2012
At a glance: With the Penguins’ 6-4 loss to the Flyers in a heated division rivalry game Sunday afternoon, the Rangers are in the driver’s seat to clinch the Eastern Conference title against the Bruins at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The Rangers need only one point to secure the top spot in the East, but they’ll face a Bruins squad looking to stave off a series sweep.

Lopsided series: Although the Rangers and Bruins have dominated the Eastern Conference all season, the series between the two teams hasn’t been as competitive. The Rangers won each of the three meetings and aim to take the fourth tonight. Sixteen of the last 20 meetings between the two teams have been decided by one goal.

Nine straight: With less than a week left in the regular season, the Rangers will keep starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who's on a roll. The 30-year-old Vezina front-runner is expected to make his season-high ninth consecutive start against the Bruins. Lundqvist (38-16-5, 1.91 GAA, .932 save %) has recorded wins in six of his last seven starts and was less than three minutes away from posting his ninth shutout of the year when Montreal’s Rene Bourque scored with 2:27 to play in the Rangers 4-1 win over the Habs Friday. Backup netminder Martin Biron has not played since March 15, when he made an expected start against the Penguins with Lundqvist out because of illness.

Man-up: With a pair of man-up goals against the Habs Friday, the Rangers tallied multiple power-play goals in consecutive games for the first time this season. Considering the unit’s struggles this season – they enter the match ranked 25th in the league with a 15.3 success rate – the Blueshirts hope that is a harbinger of things to come. After toppling the Canadiens, the Rangers improved to 24-1-4 in games they have scored a power-play goal.

Lights-out: The last time goaltender Tim Thomas paid a visit to Madison Square Garden, he didn’t leave so enthralled by the World’s Most Famous Arena. The veteran netminder ripped the Garden after his Bruins dropped a 4-3 decision to the Bruins last month, saying he was looking forward to playing in “an arena with lights.”

Almost at 40: Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik is one goal shy of reaching 40 for the second time in his Rangers career. The 30-year-old recorded his 39th Friday night and will be looking to notch his next against the Bruins.

Rangers can clinch Eastern title with win

April, 1, 2012
The Rangers have ruled the East for most of the season and Sunday night they have a chance to make it official.

In what could very likely be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, the Rangers host the Boston Bruins with a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. If the Rangers complete the series sweep against the Bruins AND the Penguins lose to the Flyers, they'll secure the title.

New York has won four straight, but Boston has some incentive as well.

Although the Bruins trail the Rangers by a whopping 11 points in the standings, they can clinch the Northeast Division Sunday if they beat the Blueshirts. They can also claim the division title before the game even starts if the Senators lose to the Islanders Sunday afternoon.

W2W4: Rangers @ Bruins

February, 14, 2012

At a glance: When the Rangers and Bruins met on Jan. 21, the two teams were neck and neck in the Eastern Conference standings. Heading into Tuesday’s match, the Rangers have the chance to put nine points between them and the second-place Bruins and collect their fourth consecutive win.

Battle of the best: Although the Bruins have slipped of late -- dropping three of their last five and posting an underwhelming 5-4-1 record over their last 10 games -- Tuesday's matchup will feature what many think could be a preview of this year's Eastern Conference finals. The reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins still boast the best goal differential (plus-64) in the league and have one of the best goaltending tandems around. New York has been resilient and consistent through the first 54 games of the season and has sure-fire Vezina candidate Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes.

Trade talk: For all the compelling on-ice action to come at TD Garden, there has been intriguing behind-the-scenes chatter leading up to Tuesday's game as well. According to several reports, the Rangers have expressed interest in acquiring Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Nash has reportedly become available by last-place Columbus and would give the Rangers a huge boost offensively should GM Glen Sather be able to pull off the blockbuster deal.

Game-time decision: After missing two games with an undisclosed injury, veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko practiced with the Rangers during the team's morning skate Tuesday. Coach John Tortorella said he was "not sure" if Fedotenko could play and Fedotenko characterized himself as a game-time decision, although it appears likely he will return to the lineup. The 33-year-old was nursing a large bruise around his left eye after taking a hard hit from Tampa Bay's Dominic Moore in the Rangers' 4-3 OT win against the Lightning on Thursday. Moore was fined $2,500 for the hit, a nasty blow that Fedotenko said he is still "angry" about.

No hard feelings: Speaking of supplementary discipline, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said he's not harboring any resentment toward Boston's Andrew Ference for Ference's suspension-worthy hit on McDonagh on Jan. 21. Ference was slapped with a three-game ban for the "reckless" hit but, fortunately for the Rangers, McDonagh suffered no serious injury on the play.

Bottom line: It’ll be Tim Thomas (23-10-0, 2.18 GAA, .931 save percentage) vs. Henrik Lundqvist (26-11-4, 1.81 GAA, .939 save percentage) in a gritty battle between the best of the East. The Bruins dropped the first on home turf; who prevails in the second?

DeBoer upset over missed penalty

January, 19, 2012
Devils coach Peter DeBoer expressed his frustration over what he felt should've been a penalty prior the Bruins' go-ahead goal Thursday night.

Seconds before Nathan Horton's power-play goal at 7:10 of the third period broke a 1-all tie, the Boston winger knocked into Matt Taormina at the blue line, sending the New Jersey defenseman sprawling to the ice.

"That was a blatant interference at the blue line. Our defenseman falls down and they choose to ignore it. That's the game right there," DeBoer said after his team's 4-1 loss.

The Devils were short-handed because right winger David Clarkson was sent off for hooking.

"Questionable penalty," center Patrik Elias said.

The Devils played two phenomenal periods -- holding the Bruins to just 12 shots -- and carried a one-goal lead into the final frame, but were unable to hold it. Defenseman Mark Fayne's shot from the right point hit the left post at 1:13, and Andrew Ference capitalized on a defensive coverage miscue 1:48 later to tie the game at 1.

Horton scored to give Boston the lead for good, and 35 seconds later, Gregory Campbell took advantage of a turnover by Elias in his own end to make it 3-1. The Bruins wound up with 13 shots in the third period.

"They're the Stanley Cup champions for a reason," DeBoer said.

After being blown out of their own building by Boston on Jan. 4, DeBoer was proud of his team's effort.

Unfortunately, the Devils imploded late and weren't able to make a statement.

The gap between the Devils and the Bruins is still a massive one.

Bounce-back opportunity awaits in Boston

January, 19, 2012

For a team that has been characterized by resilience and consistency throughout the season, the Rangers are struggling to stabilize after a handful of up-and-down performances.

The Rangers' 4-1 loss to the Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Thursday was their third in the last five games. Not a terrible effort, but one decided by a couple mental mistakes in the third period -- what coach John Tortorella characterized as some "brain-dead reads."

"They fed it to us in the third," he said.

Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin tallied twice in a three-goal third period for the Penguins, who snapped a 1-1 draw on a pivotal sequence 2:23 into play.

A bad pinch by defenseman Marc Staal allowed Richard Park to convert on a 3-on-1 rush for the Penguins, beating Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist short-side for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead.

"They made a quick play. I was going down when they were coming up and it was the wrong read," said Staal, who played a season-high of 26:02 in his ninth game back following a nine-month absence from post-concussion symptoms.

The Rangers' saving grace through the first half has been their ability to respond to adversity, and while they didn't have an answer for the Penguins on Thursday, they'll have to dig in facing a tough task this weekend.

The 29-12-4 Blueshirts travel to Boston to take on the Stanley Cup champion Bruins, who beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 Thursday to whittle the Rangers' three-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings to one.

"Obviously we need a bounce-back game," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "I feel like we've been having to mwany of those lately, with a win and a loss and a win and a loss, but it's the same story. We need a bounce-back game and there's no better opponent."

And if the Rangers come out stale like they did in the opening minutes of Thursday's game, they'll have to pay the price.

"I think you have to be ready or they'll embarrass you,” veteran Mike Rupp said. "We can't be happy with our game tonight. It really gets you to buckle down because in a short period of time here we're playing a pretty hot team -- a very good team -- and it's a good measuring stick for us."

What makes the Bruins so good?

"They don't lack anything, I don't think. I thought that last year before the playoffs, and they're just one of those teams that when they get going they're a dangerous team," Rupp said. "They have no flaws to the way they're put together.

"It's a challenge, and it's a good one. I like the way we're built, too, so it's a good challenge."

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Devils 1

January, 19, 2012

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: The Devils played arguably their best two periods of the season before imploding in the third and falling to the Bruins, 4-1 Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

New Jersey (26-18-2) carried a 1-0 lead into the final frame, but Boston (30-13-1) took over from there, scoring three goals in a span of 4:44 -- including two within 35 seconds of each other.

The Devils' three-game winning streak is over, as they could not avenge a 6-1 blowout at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champions on Jan. 4. Making matters worse, they lost defenseman Henrik Tallinder for six to eight weeks with a blood clot in his lower left leg.

TURNING POINT: When Tim Thomas robbed David Clarkson with 1:15 left in the second, and Mark Fayne's shot from the right point hit the left post 1:13 into the third. Martin Brodeur robbed Benoit Pouliot on the doorstep at 2:10, but Andrew Ference's slapper tied the game at 1 51 seconds later, and Nathan Hornton and Gregory Campbell followed, giving Boston a two-goal edge.

SYK BRO: Petr Sykora opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season with 1:31 left in the first period. Sykora, stationed between the hashmarks, took a behind-the-net pass from Dainius Zubrus and quickly fired to beat Thomas and put the Devils ahead 1-0.

WREAKING HAVOC: It was the Devils' fourth that galvanized the team in the first period. Brad Mills dropped the gloves against Campbell at 14:31, while Cam Janssen fired a pair of shots on net and delivered a heavy hit in the corner on Ference.

POST TO POST: Steve Zalewski and Pouliot hit the post on successive odd-man rushes midway through the middle frame.

UP NEXT: Devils vs. Flyers, 1 p.m. Saturday.

Time for Devils to make a statement

January, 17, 2012

Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't forgotten how badly he and his Devils teammates were bludgeoned by the Bruins the last time the two teams faced one another.

"We remember that game. It was embarrassing," Kovalchuk told MSG Network after pumping in a pair of goals on Tuesday night in New Jersey's 5-1 whooping of lowly Winnipeg.

On Jan. 4, Boston blew the Devils out of their own building, 6-1, in what was without question their worst performance of the season. The Bruins dominated them in every facet of the game.

The Devils will have a chance to get their revenge when they meet the Bruins on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

Ed Mulholland/US PresswireMartin Brodeur and the Devils face a big challenge when the champion Bruins come to town Thursday.

"We weren't happy with our effort [last time]," Patrik Elias told MSG Network. "We just have to give a better effort. It's a great challenge, so we have to rise to the occasion."

The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins are as complete a hockey team as you'll find. Boston has scored the most goals, and allowed the fewest.

"We have to be ready, we have to be ready to win a lot of 50-50 pucks on the wall," captain Zach Parise told MSG. "That's where that team is really good. We have to be mentally ready."

"They have four very good lines. We have to come out with a good effort, be patient and play our game," Petr Sykora added.

The Devils are hot, having won three in a row. They went 3-1 on their four-game road-trip, and then took care of the Jets with ease.

Their stars are playing like stars:
• Kovalchuk has seven goals in his last six games;
• Elias has a six-game points streak (four goals, six assists);
Martin Brodeur is 9-3-1 since Dec. 6.

Brodeur, who is 39 and in the final year of his contract, confirmed what he told the New York Post to MSG Network after Tuesday's game when he said, "I'm leaning toward maybe playing a little more. I'm having fun."

The Devils (26-17-2) have had their fair share of victories this season. That's why they’re in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

But they've struggled against the top teams in the East, going 1-4 combined against the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers.

Sykora said he thinks the Devils can beat the Bruins.

Now, it’s time to prove it and make a statement that this Devils team is a force to be reckoned with.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Bruins

December, 9, 2010
The Isles are back in action tonight, facing the Boston Bruins. Here are three factors to monitor when the game gets underway.

Lighting the Lamp
Boston has been able to save a little on their electricity bills this season, considering visiting teams have been unable to turn on the goal light too often. The Bruins are the NHL’s top defensive team, combining some stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas with a top-notch blue line and a neutral-zone clogging trap. The Islanders are the second-lowest scoring team in the league, which means the Isles’ defense will need to be far stingier than their 3.24 goals-against average Thursday night.

Sparking Tavares
John Tavares has been held without a point in the past two games. By far the post talented player the Islanders have, New York needs him to be more productive ... but how? Every game he usually faces the opposition’s top checking line and defensive pairing. Considering he doesn’t have much help, it’s been tough for him to get going, but it’s doubtful his help is going to get any better this season. JT is going to have to do it himself.

The System
Given the Islanders’ propensity to sit back under new coach Jack Capuano, this could be a really slow game decided by one or two key neutral zone turnovers. The Isles have reeled in their forecheck under the new coach and Claude Julien’s B’s have always hovered in the neutral zone, waiting to snatch up an errant pass and speed back on an odd-man rush. New York will have to take extra-good care of the puck through center ice tonight.