In the NHL’s first NBC telecast of 2013-14—and the second installment of the fledgling Thanksgiving showdown custom—the Boston Bruins wrested away the better half of this season’s wishbone from the New York Rangers.
The non-divisional Eastern Conference adversaries conducted their second of three regular-season meetings Friday afternoon. Only 10 days after pilfering a 2-1 decision in Manhattan, the Bruins claimed their second straight one-goal victory at the expense of Henrik Lundqvist and company, with a 3-2 triumph at TD Garden.
For once, though they were a natural factor, Lundqvist and Boston goaltending counterpart Tuukka Rask were not among the most celestial players in this tilt. Between two lead changes and six point-getters to each side, several skaters offered a slightly different flavor to the latest Bruins-Blueshirt bout.
Even if you restrict it to those who penned their names to the scoresheet, the Rangers picked up appreciable contributions from many skaters who have garnered Olympic consideration. Those would be America’s Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh, Canada’s Rick Nash and Sweden’s Carl Hagelin.
Boston’s direct producers under scrutiny for Sochi included Canada’s Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Czech Republic’s David Krejci, Slovakia’s Zdeno Chara and Sweden’s Loui Eriksson. Meanwhile, Milan Lucic’s efforts were rewarded with a plus-one rating and credit for four hits and a team-leading four shots on net.
But who between the two parties warrants a slot among the five most impactful players (one for every goal)? The next five slides offer an answer in ascending order.
The towering Rangers pivot charged up a mere 10:38 of ice time, in part because he had to sit five out for brawling with Chara. But he left enough of an imprint in his allotment of action with three body checks, two blocked shots and a takeaway.
In addition, Boyle was the lone Ranger to play a full minute of shorthanded action, his 60 seconds in that situation eclipsing the 55 of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman.
Overall, the Blueshirts were only on the kill for a cumulative 95 seconds and two segments. Come what may, Boston’s only power-play shot of the afternoon came via Chris Kelly at 19:03 of the first, during one of the 35 seconds Boyle spent watching his club on the kill from the bench.
To New York’s credit, its power-play brigade had at least one sustained stay in the attacking zone when its man-up segments lasted long enough; however, the Rangers mustered all of two shots on net throughout five opportunities and a cumulative 7:35 of five-on-four action.
The Bruins eventually matched the Rangers' output in the shooting gallery during their kills, with Eriksson landing a shorthanded bid at the 38-second mark of the second and Daniel Paille at 16:35 of the third. In addition, they cut off New York’s first two advantages by drawing a minor infraction the other way.
Had the Rangers held on to their lead in the third period, Nash likely would have held on to his star of the game distinction. Unfortunately, he was on the ice for the two goals that flip-flopped his team’s fortunes and thus finished the day with a minus-two rating.
Before any of that, he had his share of positive pairs on the stat sheet. By the second intermission, Nash had posted two shots on net, two takeaways and two blocks on Boston bids.
His second block averted what could have been a momentum-shifting equalizer after Brad Marchand fed Dennis Seidenberg at the point with two seconds to spare.
Before any of that, Nash buried an equalizer to draw a 1-1 knot at 13:04. Two minutes and 12 seconds later, he drew a hooking minor on Zdeno Chara whilst cutting down the center alley to the cage.
In between, the momentum was plainly in New York’s possession, owing in no small part to Nash, as Ryan McDonagh busted the 1-1 tie a mere 82 seconds after Nash created it.
Chara’s aforementioned fight with Boyle doubtlessly factored in to his season-low 19:50 of ice time. Given the storyline of mounting wear and tear that will hover over him throughout the season, though, the extra rest may have been for the better.
That notion garnered a day’s worth of validation by the time Chara slugged home the eventual decider from the straightaway point. Ditto within the last five minutes of action, when he pitched in on the final penalty kill of the day and the act of warding off New York’s six-pack attack with an empty net.
The third-period goal and the middle-frame fight followed the primary assist on Marchand’s icebreaker to give the Boston captain a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Until Friday, Marchand had not mustered a multipoint effort since Game 2 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals on June 3. His previous two-pointer in regular-season action came on April 8 of last season versus Carolina.
Now, after a wretched start to his fourth full NHL campaign, the second-line winger appears to be thawing out and replenishing a characteristic pace. His goal-assist variety pack gave him a hand in three of Boston’s five strikes against Lundqvist so far this season and a 2-3-5 log in his last eight outings.
Marchand opened Friday’s scoring by finishing what he started. He dished a diagonal feed from the near lane to Chara on the opposite point.
Eriksson collected the remnants of the captain’s bid behind the cage and forwarded it back to Chara. By then, Marchand was available to accept a similarly distant pass and bury it from a tough angle at the bottom of the faceoff circle.
In the second minute of the third period, Marchand was in roughly the same neighborhood when he found his other linemate, Patrice Bergeron, in the slot. While Eriksson set up a screen on the porch, Bergeron nimbly pinballed the puck off Lundqvist and defenseman Dan Girardi to draw a 2-2 knot at 1:35.
That successful setup virtually made up for Marchand’s near-miss on another momentous assist. As noted in the Nash slide, he worked the puck behind the goal line and found Seidenberg for a last-ditch swing on the cusp of the second-period siren, though Nash made the block to briefly preserve New York’s 2-1 lead.