The New York Rangers were out-shooting the Boston Bruins 14-9 after Ryan McDonagh scored the team's only goal. McDonagh's point shot through a screen came at 3:53 of the second period to make it 1-0 Rangers in a pivotal Game 3 that could swing the two teams' Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Here was the Rangers' chance to make it a homer series and prove to the Bruins that this would be a long, epic battle.
Instead, the Bruins took over. Boston outshot New York by a count of 25-10 over the last 36 minutes of the game, getting third period goals from Johnny Boychuk and a bizarre one from Daniel Paille to skate out of Madison Square Garden with a 2-1 win. Insane that this same Bruins team was seconds away from being eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs but 10 days ago. A testament to Claude Julien and his excellent team that they have found their gear when it was most needed.
They meet for Game 4 on Thursday night, giving the Bruins a chance to sweep out New York on the Rangers' home ice. It'll be a difficult task if the Rangers play the same game they brought in Games 1 and 3 to Game 4. The Bruins have gotten it done three times before, but the fourth is the hardest. Just ask their AHL affiliate in Providence, who took a 3-0 series lead on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in their Conference Semifinal series just days ago, and surrendered it completely, losing 4-3. Of course, the NHL Bruins also have their own experiences with that in 2010.
The Rangers, meanwhile, may be without Anton Stralman. Stralman, who has become a key component in the New York defense, was injured during Game 4. It appears that Marc Staal is still not ready to come back, and Stralman's replacement will likely be either Matt Gilroy or Roman Hamrlik. So... the Rangers defense is pretty much Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh... and some duct tape. Good luck!
Does Henrik Lundqvist steal one before the Rangers get bounced?
It may not be fair to call it this way, given how the two defenses have played, but... Tuukka Rask has been better than Henrik Lundqvist in this series. Lundqvist was probably a little better in Game 3, despite his costly mistake that led to the winning goal, but he still needed to come up bigger in the series. The five goals in Game 2 -- a game that was winnable more than halfway through the second period -- were something that just couldn't happen. That said, Lundqvist is always capable of just ripping one away from his opponents. Perhaps tonight.
Can the Rangers depleted defense come up big the same way Boston's did?
The Rangers may be forced to put up a defense that includes John Moore, Steve Eminger and Roman Hamrlik or Matt Gilroy tonight. That includes the shaky Michael Del Zotto, and Dan Girardi, who was terrible in Game 2 of the series but is usually solid. Is there any hope for a Marc Staal return? Either way, maybe the Rangers can use their depleted 'D' as a rallying tool. It's worked for the Bruins, who have gone patchwork with youngsters on the blueline in this series. I just don't know if Roman Hamrlik is all that inspiring anymore.
Could Brad Richards come up big in what may be his last game as a Ranger?
Man, the saga of Brad Richards. It's been covered well by many, but he has been awful for most of this post-season. Just a completely forgettable performance. Fine in his own end, but awful offensively and especially on the dying Ranger power play. He and his old buddy John Tortorella may go down with the ship tonight, but will either of them be back in the fall?
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
National TV: CNBC, TSN