The Boston Bruins nearly made an epic comeback to defeat the New York Rangers on Tuesday after they trailed 3-0 in the third period, but after scoring twice to tie the game with the goalie pulled in the final two minutes of regulation, the Blueshirts were able to escape TD Garden with two points after a shootout.
"We got two points, that’s the feeling you have. I don’t think we played that badly in the third period," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella.
"But they come back and score a couple late, but we still come away with two points so we’ll do some teaching and get better in some situational play and keep banging away here."
New York has won the season series 2-1, and these teams won't play each other again unless they meet in the playoffs, which is very possible.
Let's look at five takeaways from what was arguably the most exciting game of the season.
Rick Nash is the best power forward in the NHL
Rick Nash dominated this game and proved why he's the best power forward in the league. He's the total package with an unreal combination of speed, playmaking, hands, scoring and size.
On the Rangers' first goal, Nash made a sweet move to get past Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, and as he was falling to the ice, he was able to pass the puck over to Carl Hagelin, who shot it past Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.
"I thought I had a step on [Ference] wide, I noticed I didn't so I cut back, didn't have a shot, saw Hags out of the corner of my eye at the last second so I dished it over," said Nash when describing what was arguably the best assist of the season.
In the shootout, Nash made an incredible move to beat Rask and give his team a 1-0 lead after two rounds. "Yeah it was obviously what I planned," said Nash about his shootout move. "Coming in with speed, try to sell a move and hopefully he bites and that time he did."
No one in the NHL with Nash's size skates as well or passes as effectively, and even though the veteran winger has scored only three goals this season, he has been consistent with points in nine of the Rangers' 13 games thus far and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) total.
Nash impacts the game physically, kills penalties and is versatile enough to play with so many different players, whether he's on the first line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, or the second line with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin.
This game was a great example of why the Rangers were so determined to acquire Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets before last year's trade deadline and into the offseason.
Many people wondered how he would adapt to a market like New York with expectations as high as they could go, but thus far Nash has given the Rangers all they could ask for with solid two-way play each night.
Both Teams' Power-plays are Incredibly Bad and Must Improve
The Bruins and Rangers came into this game with two of the worst power plays in the league, ranked 28th and 29th, respectively.
There was very little in this game to make you think that each unit is improving. Both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play, and for the season, the Bruins are 4-for-43 and the Rangers are 4-for-44.
The Bruins actually had trouble entering the offensive zone and making simple passes to the defensemen at the point, which resulted in boos from the Garden crowd. Like they have all season, the Bruins passed way too much and did not take enough shots with the man advantage.
The Rangers block a lot of shots, but trying to find the perfect shot with so many extra passes just isn't an effective strategy.
Bruins forward Milan Lucic said, "Sometimes you just want to get the puck in and establish offensive zone presence and spend some time in their end, and sometimes we’re trying to make maybe one too many passes and not just shoot the puck on the net, and those blue lines are really important areas in making big plays, so we can’t be cute when it comes to when we have the puck in those areas.
"Like I said, when we get our chances to shoot, we’ve got to take them and be a little bit more selfish."
Boston was a bit unlucky in the third period when David Krejci's goal was scored literally a second after a Rangers penalty expired, but there was nothing to be excited about from a power-play perspective in this game.
As for the Rangers, it's about finding the right line combinations and establishing a net-front presence. This team has too much offensive talent to struggle on the power play, and as long as they are aggressive, the success will come.
Bruins' Third Period Effort Proves How Crucial Every Point is in Shortened Season
Around the league in this shortened season, we have seen teams fight with every ounce of effort they have for each point possible. In a 48-game season, a single point can be the difference between making the playoffs and being in the NHL draft lottery.
With the Bruins down three goals in the third period, they played with a sense of urgency over the final 10 minutes of regulation to fight their way back into the game. The team's persistence was rewarded, and thanks to a little bit of luck, the B's earned a crucial point.
"Every point counts. You see teams are on rolls right now, and you don’t want to be left behind," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "We want to continue to remain in a playoff position. To do that, you have to get a point every night. It’s tough to lose, but at least we got that one point."
"...With a lot less games, a lot less points on the table, you want to get any points that you can, so, like I said, it was good to see the guys battle all the way through to the end and pick up that point," Lucic said.
The Rangers are going to be in a close Atlantic Division race this season, so regrouping after a horrendous end to the third period and getting the extra point could help them tremendously in late April. If teams sit back and "take their foot off the gas," good teams like the Bruins will make them pay.
"There was a little 12-minute stretch there where we kind of sat back but you got to give credit to them they played desperate," Nash said. "I think we sat back a bit with the lead, the three nothing lead. We took a penalty and they got a big power play goal but in saying that we held off Tampa Bay last game and didn’t quite work tonight. We got to make sure we stay on the forecheck and keep it in tact and not just sit back."
Expect to see more fantastic finishes across the league this season as teams give everything they have to earn the points that will save their season.
The Rangers Are Hitting Their Stride
Tuesday's victory moved the Rangers two games above .500 for the first time this season, and the team is currently on its first three-game winning streak of 2013.
"...We finally climbed above the five hundred mark and now we need to start getting better as a hockey team and keep trying to put some wins in here," Tortorella said. "And it’s a good team we played against, it’s a tough building to play in, we did some really good things, but we also have a lot of things especially situational play as far as protecting that lead."
The two points moved the Rangers back into the playoff race (8th place) with 14 points, one above the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning. Starting with last week's victory over the New York Islanders, the Blueshirts allowed just two goals in 170 minutes of hockey until the Bruins' scoring spree in the third period began on Tuesday.
The Rangers are playing much better defensively than they were in the early part of the season, and star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is finally getting comfortable and performing at an elite level.
"He's unbelievable, he's a world-class goalie," Nash said. "He's the reason we're having success right now, he's the backbone of our team. It's impressive to watch."
New York has an opportunity to continue its winning ways with a pretty soft schedule for the remainder of February. Only one of the Rangers' matchups this month is against a team currently in the top five of the Eastern Conference standings, and they also have four games against teams outside the playoff picture.
The Rangers are finally playing well consistently, and that's an encouraging sign for a team with a number of new players who weren't part of last season's squad. New York is certainly headed in the right direction after a 1-3 start to the year.
Bruins are the NHL's best team in the Third Period
With three goals on Tuesday, the Bruins have scored 15 times in the third period this season, while allowing just five goals in the final 20 minutes (second-fewest in the league). Boston and Tampa Bay lead the league with a goal differential in the third period of 10.
"We just seem to have a lot of drive in the third," Marchand said. "I think that coach comes in and really pushes us to leave it all out on the ice. It just seems we have a lot of leadership and guys step up at the right times. When you have guys playing well, everyone else follows"
This was the seventh time this season that the Bruins have won a game or forced overtime by scoring in the third period. Every great team raises its game in the third period, and the Bruins have done this over the last two years.
It's difficult to play 60 minutes of quality, physical hockey, but the Bruins cannot rely on third period energy to help earn points against good teams. Boston needs to be stronger in the first two periods if this team is going to have success in the playoffs, but its success in the final 20 minutes is definitely something to be proud of.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He has also covered the Boston Bruins since the 2010-11 season. All quotes obtained firsthand.
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