Bruins done in by their mistakes
Despite letting sweep slip away, Boston's confidence should remain intact
NEW YORK -- When a redirected shot beat Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to give the New York Rangers a 4-3 overtime win to stave off elimination in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, there probably were plenty of Bruins fans who suffered a flashback to 2010.
Just because the Rangers' Chris Kreider scored at 7:03 of the extra period to give New York its first win in this series Thursday night, there's no reason to drum up allusions to Boston's historic implosion against the Philadelphia Flyers in the conference semifinals three years ago.
This season, this team and this goalie are completely different than the group that surrendered a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers and eventually lost in seven games. Boston is a more experienced team. Rask is a much better goalie than he was then. With the series shifting back to TD Garden for Game 5 on Saturday evening at 5:30 ET, there's no panic on the Bruins' part.
Since the Bruins' historic Game 7 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, when they erased a three-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes and then won in overtime, they've been playing well. In fact, Thursday's loss snapped a four-game winning streak.
A pair of mental miscues by Rask and captain Zdeno Chara cost the Bruins in Game 4.
"I felt we didn't get outworked, but we didn't play as well as we should have throughout the whole game," coach Claude Julien said. "The other thing, when you give them two gift goals, eventually it's going to hurt, and that's what happened."
After a scoreless first period in which the Bruins outshot the Rangers 12-4, Boston gained a two-goal lead in the second period and it appeared a series sweep was in the works. Following a pair of power-play goals by the Bruins' Nathan Horton and Torey Krug, Boston had momentum and the Rangers appeared lifeless.
Madison Square Garden was quiet.
But less than a minute after Krug gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead, the Rangers caught a big break and suddenly had life again.
Rask, who has played so consistently throughout the playoffs, fell as he was going to play a puck and was caught out of his net. The puck slid in, and Carl Hagelin's goal cut New York's deficit to 2-1. That goal was the turning point in the game.
"I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something," Rask said. "My skate dug in, and that's what it felt like. I lost my balance, and the rest is history.
"Focus, got to be more focused. It's a tough mistake and it looks pretty bad on TV, I bet."
Rask tried to recover but couldn't get the paddle of his stick down in time as the puck rolled in.
"It's just sloppy," he said. "It kind of like freezes you, like what the heck happened, then you still have a second to decide whether you're going to try to scramble and put the paddle down. I tried to whack it away. It was just awful."
After the Rangers' morning skate Thursday, New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said he thought the Bruins had gotten a couple of lucky bounces in the series. This time New York got the bounces, and capitalized on Boston's mistakes.
A communication breakdown allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 2-all at 1:15 of the third period. Rask went behind his net to control the puck for defenseman Chara, but did not get back into his crease and set himself before the Rangers' Derek Stepan stole the puck from Chara and scored with a wraparound.
Before Chara was stripped of the puck, defensive partner Dougie Hamilton was in the far corner waiting for a pass to start the breakout. Chara later told the rookie defenseman he didn't know the forechecker was on his back.
"He said he didn't know he was there, and I guess we could've let him know," Hamilton said.
Rask said he didn't see Stepan, either.
"Nothing," he said. "I stopped the puck. We tried to wheel it and then [Stepan] surprised us and I couldn't do anything. I didn't see anything."
Julien chalked it up to a good play by Stepan and did not blame Rask for not being in position.
"I think Tuukka did the job he had to do," the coach said. "Z just got stripped. It's a mistake, but as we often say, 'How many does he repair versus how many he costs?' But at the end of the day, those two goals, the first and second goals, certainly hurt us."
Even with the two breakdowns, the Bruins regained their lead when Tyler Seguin scored his first goal of the playoffs at 8:06 of the third period.
"A sigh of relief and maybe a confidence booster," Seguin said of the goal after the loss. "It was nice to finally get one in. It was a tough game, a weird game. We knew it would be a tough one to win."
The third and final mental mistake came less than one minute after Seguin's goal, when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice. The Rangers capitalized and scored the tying goal at 10:00 when Brian Boyle's shot from the slot beat Rask.
"It gave us the lead and the momentum," Rask said of Seguin's goal. "Then right after that, we had a too-many-men-on-the-ice call, a little breakdown in front of our net and it's in our net. It's something we've got to look at, learn from and be better."
New York's winning goal was the only clean one for the Rangers. They gained control and broke into the offensive zone with a partial 2-on-1 when Rick Nash fed a centering pass past Chara and out of the reach of Hamilton. Kreider redirected it home for a 4-3 win.
"That was the best goal of the night for them," Rask said. "That was a really good goal. They shot for a stick and got a really good tip. I could've had it but I'm not going to blame myself too much."
Hamilton was clearly shaken by the goal after the game.
"That last goal is obviously bugging me; that's a play I have to have," he said. "I feel like I let the team down. I'm pretty upset right now.
"I had him coming through and I knew exactly what he was going to do. I just couldn't get his stick in time. He got it right when the puck was coming there, and I just couldn't get his stick. I obviously have to take him away and remove his stick from playing that puck. If I get rid of his stick, the puck goes in the corner. That's it. That's the play. I'm pretty upset."
Despite the lost opportunity, Rask and his teammates remain confident as the series shifts back to Boston.
"We weren't as good as last game. We gave them a couple of gifts, obviously, and at the end of the day, that's what cost us a lot of energy, a couple of leads and the game," Rask said.
"It's a game of mistakes. The team makes mistakes, every player makes mistakes, and you've just got to learn from them and move forward. I don't think a couple of mistakes make us a bad hockey team. It's what happens sometimes, and you've got to shake it off and move on."
No doubt there will be plenty of talk in Boston about 2010 until the puck drops for Game 5 on Saturday. Yes, the Bruins responded with a sweep of the Flyers in 2011 en route to their Stanley Cup title, but Tim Thomas was in net for all four games.
Now with a 3-1 lead over the Rangers, Rask and the Bruins will attempt to close it out Saturday and erase any doubt.
"There's no panic here," Julien said. "Had we been outworked and not been there at all, we would be talking differently here. But we didn't get outworked, and all it was, as a team, we didn't execute as well as we have been. We have to go back home and play a better game."