It was the same story, with the same result, for Rangers.
No matter how many Grade-A chances are created or how many backs are perfect, it’s the finish that wins games — and the Rangers didn’t have enough of that Thursday night at the Garden against the NHL-leading Bruins. This resulted in a 3-1 defeat which probably stung more in a game where they were trying to match the league’s best.
The scoreboard looked downright scary with a glaring zero on the jumbotron next to their logo for 55:37 of the 60-minute contest, but the Rangers weren’t exactly blown off the ice despite what the score indicated. Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman had to work for his 11th win of the season with 31 occasionally tough saves.
It wasn’t challenging enough, apparently. Defenseman Ben Harpur may have ended Swayman’s bid with his first goal as a Ranger off the wrist from the top of the left faceoff circle at 15:37 of the third period, but the Blueshirts weren’t tough enough to defend.
The Bruins, coming off the back of a back-to-back, are an unstoppable force with one goal and one goal: To dismantle their opponents. They strip teams of everything they think makes them good and suffocate them in the process. The Rangers struggled to create space for themselves and looked disorganized at times thanks to Boston’s forechecking and relentless pursuit of the puck.
That’s not to say Rangers didn’t have their looks. In fact, they outscored the Bruins 32-27 and created plenty of chances in each period. The puck just didn’t want to go in, as some Rangers have said before this season.
Especially Artemi Panarin, he put the bench in the net in any way he could. Finishing with nine attempts and six scoring chances in 15:18, Panarin just couldn’t score. That’s been the case for Rangers as a team on several occasions this season: Lots of A-grade chances without results.
Less than five minutes into the second period, Patrice Bergeron made it a 2-0 game with a wrister from the top of the circles.
Pavel Zaha struck first for the visitors, with a point shot by David Krejci 1:19 into the game to set the tone. The Rangers might have been ready to go, but they were forced to buckle when they found themselves down two men for 1:42 left in the opening period.
Not only did the Rangers come out unscathed, but they created some much-needed momentum. No shots were made and the Blueshirts finished the period strong with some quality scoring opportunities, including a redirection of an Artemi Panarin feed by Chris Kreider that Swayman denied at the buzzer.