The New York Rangers must like living on the edge.
Outplayed badly through the first eight minutes of the second period of Game 4, the Rangers were trailing the Boston Bruins 2-0. Already down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, their season was in the countdown mode.
Then Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask stumbled as Carl Hagelin tossed an easy shot at him. The puck took a slow, meandering journey and ended up in the net. It was an ugly, tortured goal, but it gave the Rangers life.
Rask knew that his fall allowed the Rangers to score the first goal. It happened when the edge of his skate got stuck in the ice.
Tuukka said he took step to the side & felt like his skate dug into a skate mark or something.."then lost my balance and rest is history"^CS— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 24, 2013
Instead of skating in mud the rest of the way, the Rangers did nothing but fight. The Bruins still held a 2-1 edge going into the third, but a giveaway by Zdeno Chara allowed Derek Stepan to score the tying goal early in the third period.
The Bruins responded and took a 3-2 lead when Tyler Seguin scored at the 8:06 mark of the third period just as a Boston power play ended.
However, when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice—the franchise's signature nightmare penalty call—it allowed the Rangers to net the overtime-forcing goal. The score was Brian Boyle's first with a man advantage since 2011.
In overtime, a Chris Kreider tip-in on Rick Nash's sensational pass secured a 4-3 victory.
The Rangers have been teetering on the brink of failure through much of the season. It seems to bring out the best in them.
At one point in the regular season, a playoff spot seemed to be slipping away. But key trade deadline deals brought them Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore from Columbus along with Ryane Clowe from San Jose. From there, the Rangers went 9-4 to earn the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers were trailing the Washington Capitals 3-2 and appeared to be ready to say goodbye to the season. But Henrik Lundqvist responded with back-to-back shutouts as the Rangers survived and advanced.
It's too early to say the Rangers will do the same to the Bruins, but they have taken the first step toward a remarkable comeback.
Perhaps the Rangers have the right opponent for their hopeful turnaround. The Bruins led the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 before the Leafs tied the first-round series and sent it to a seventh game. The Bruins were also set to lose that game until they made a late miracle comeback of their own.
However, the Bruins have blown bigger leads than that. They endured one of the worst nightmares in hockey history in 2010 when they lost four straight to the Philadelphia Flyers after previously securing a 3-0 series lead. It was just the third time in NHL history that a team overcame an 0-3 deficit (1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders).
When the Flyers made their comeback against the Bruins, their first victory came in overtime at home, just as it did for the Rangers on Thursday night.
Fischler (@StanFischler) May 24, 2013
The Rangers certainly hope the Bruins cooperate and give them Games 5 and 6, but it would seem unlikely for a team with Boston's pedigree to make the same mistakes twice (or three times). After all, this same club bounced back from their 2010 disaster by winning the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Can the Rangers mount a comeback against the Bruins?
On the surface, the Rangers still have much work to do. They are down 3-1 with the fifth game in Boston on Saturday.
But they have life and at least a little bit of momentum.
They appear to only know how to do things the hard way, and a victory in the conference semifinals would come in the hardest way possible.