Despite facing a daunting 3-0 series deficit, the New York Rangers managed to stave off elimination in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal when they defeated the Boston Bruins in overtime, 4-3. While the Rangers managed to battle off adversity -- at least, for one night -- the team still faces controversy as the decision to make Brad Richards a healthy scratch hangs in the ether.
When looking at Game 4 through the infallible gaze of hindsight, it appears the decision to bench Richards helped propel the team to victory. Head coach John Tortorella altered his roster prior to the contest, breaking up the fourth line of Arron Asham, Chris Kreider and Richards. In their place, Tortorella drew Derek Dorsett, Micheal Haley and Kris Newbury. While Asham joined Richards in the press box, Kreider moved up the lineup and ultimately scored the game-winning goal.
While the desired result was achieved, it still remains to be seen whether this incarnation of the Rangers truly will continue to work. That's not to say the decision to bench Richards was the wrong one. It merely raises the question of whether New York won Game 4 or Boston lost it.
At one point in the contest, it appeared as though the Rangers' season was nearing its end. Namely, at the 12-minute mark of the second period when the Bruins had a two-goal lead after a pair of power play strikes. 39 seconds later, Carl Hagelin brought the Rangers within a goal with the aid of a creative lead pass from Derick Brassard.
That, in combination with a bizarre moment by Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
It wasn't the only advantageous strike for New York. At the opening of the third period, Rick Nash attempted to begin a forecheck by dumping the puck into Boston's zone. Rask left the net to coral the puck and handed it off to captain Zdeno Chara. As Chara broke from behind the net, Derek Stepan picked the puck off Chara's stick and brought the score even at two.
Whether the goal was scored because Chara's awareness was lacking, Rask was too lackadaisical in getting back to his net or Stepan made a great play is up for interpretation. Regardless of how one chooses to look at it, the end result was the Rangers gaining new life in a game they appeared ready to lose.
Had Boston not allowed these seemingly preventable goals, would TD Garden still be hosting semifinal contests? Probably not.
While the Bruins created an opening for their opponents, the Rangers still deserve some credit for coming away with the win. The team fell behind a second time when Tyler Seguin reestablished the Bruins lead later in the third. Despite this, New York responded with two unanswered goals.
While it remains to be seen what Tortorella does with his lineup for Game 5, it's probably a safe bet that he won't alter much. Especially in the case of Richards.
It will be interesting to see if New York can continue to extend the series. The Bruins seemingly dominated long stretches of Game 4 and has appeared the superior of the two teams. Given the difficulty of completing a sweep, one flawed performance probably shouldn't create too much cause for concern, even while accounting for demons from the Bruins' past.
The series will resume in Boston for Game 5 on Saturday night.