It may have been Henrik Lundqvist’s birthday, but it was the goalie in white who was handing out presents Sunday night. Tuukka Rask held the Bruins in the game long enough for the offense to finally wake up and steal a win from the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Rask’s 39 saves propelled the Bruins to their first season sweep of the Rangers since the 1982-83 season
After allowing only nine goals in six games at the Sochi Olympics, Lundqvist allowed six against the Bruins offense in a 6-3 decision. The Bruins, who were 7-1-2 leading up to the Olympic Break, finally got back on track after dropping their first two games back against the Sabres and the Capitals.
It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins Sunday night as they got off to a rough start, playing one of their worst periods of hockey of the season. They suffered crippling defensive breakdowns throughout the first, allowing several Rangers odd-man rushes including a JT Miller breakaway goal just over three minutes into the game. Thanks to a heroic effort in goal by Rask, the B’s miraculously came out of the first period tied 1-1 after being outshot 12-1 in the first ten minutes of play.
Sloppy play and bad decisions continued for the Bruins defense throughout the first half of the game, forcing Rask to make spectacular save after spectacular save. The offense slept through the first 30 minutes of play as well. They had no control in the neutral zone, giving up several turnovers and failing to gain possession in their offensive zone.
The offense finally came alive in the second half of the game to score six goals on Lundqvist for the first time in franchise history. The Bruins scored three unanswered after New York took the early lead. Dougie Hamilton picked up a point on each, including a perfectly timed goal to lead off the second period off a great assist by Jarome Iginla who scored the equalizer at the end of the first.
While the defense continued to struggle with sloppy mistakes and slow play, the offense managed to maintain offensive zone possession and put up constant pressure against Lundqvist and the Rangers defense. This pressure paid off again as Carl Soderberg netted a rebound of a Hamilton shot to put the B’s up 3-1.
Brad Richards managed to pull the Rangers back within one seven minutes later after yet another bad turnover in the neutral zone. Richards gained the 2 on 1 rush off an assist from Callahan and beat Rask, who had been mostly flawless through 46 minutes of play, stick side.
By the third period the Bruins were off to the races, netting three more goals against the King. Gregory Campbell scored two back to back, including a shorthanded goal. Milan Lucic tipped in a Matt Barkowski shot with 1:32 to go in the game to hush the Madison Square Garden crowd for good just three minutes after Ryan McDonagh brought the Rangers back within two on a power-play goal.
Tuukka Rask proved that he was back and ready to play after a solid performance at the Sochi Games. He had something to prove after a rough first game back on Saturday afternoon where he gave up four goals to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. However, it was all Tuukka Sunday night as he single-handedly played defense just three days before the March 5th trade deadline that has been raising questions in the Boston media as to whether or not the front office should be giving the defense a closer look.