Final: Bruins 3, Rangers 2
Recap: Zdeno Chara's Gordie Howe Hat Trick led the way for the Bruins, who surrendered an early 1-0 lead but came back to beat the Blueshirts two nights after the debacle in Detroit. Multi-point games for Chara and Brad Marchand, the first of the year for each, were among the big highlights in the annual post-Thanksgiving tilt at TD Garden.
The Bruins clearly had the run of it early on, and Marchand's one-timer goal on a feed from Chara was the reward for lots of good early puck movement. But the goal only served as a wake-up call for the Rangers, who scored twice in 1:22 to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The second goal came on a horrendous over-commit by the Bruins, who had all five players stuck in the corner to Tuukka Rask's left as the puck got to Ryan McDonagh. The Ranger blueliner had a great look at a shot through a screen set up by old friend Benoit Pouliot for the go-ahead.
The B's showed plenty of toughness in the second period, with Chara winning a short and angry scrap with Hingham, Mass., native Brian Boyle after some pushing and shoving. The Bruins outshot the Rangers 9-7 in the second as well, but couldn't connect to tie it.
Patrice Bergeron got the rally started early in the third, rattling a shot in after a strong net drive by Marchand with 1:35 gone in the final frame, before Chara buried a wide-open blast from the mid slot with 8:55 to go. Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a good look at the shot, but couldn't snag it as it zipped past him low to the glove side.
Records: Boston 17-7-2, 36 points; New York 13-13-0, 26 points.
Key Play of the Game: Chara's blast may have been the winner, but it was Bergeron's goal with 18:25 to go that sparked the Bruins' stellar third period. Marchand started the play by driving to the goal line with Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh giving passive chase, before turning to feed Bergeron. Loui Eriksson followed to the net, and forced New York's Dan Girardi to stay with him, creating the deflection that rattled past Lundqvist for the tying goal.
Merritt's Marks: It's almost hard to believe that neither Chara nor Marchand had a multi-point game this season before Friday afternoon, but both have suffered through a couple of scoring droughts this year. With Friday's outbursts, they're both now into double-digit points (11).
Dennis Seidenberg also made his return to the lineup after missing four games with the injury he suffered in the Bruins' last game against the Rangers on Nov. 19. Though Seidenberg was on the ice for McDonagh's goal, he logged a hefty 24:43 of ice time over 30 shifts, both of which were team highs.
De-Merritts: All five Bruin skaters get a minus on the McDonagh goal, but the forwards – Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg – deserve a little extra scorn. After Kelly put Derick Brassard down along the boards, he lost track of the Ranger center, allowing a return pass from Ryan Callahan. Brassard then found McDonagh on the point with Smith and Soderberg caught puck-watching, and by the time Smith realized he had given away the open look, it was too late.
Notes: With Seidenberg back in the lineup, Matt Bartkowski took a seat as a healthy scratch ... Chara's fighting major was his first of the year, and his third in the last two seasons ... Friday was the first game that Chara (19:50) didn't lead the Bruins in time on ice since Nov. 7, when Johnny Boychuk edged him by 22 seconds in a 4-1 victory. That's a streak of 10 straight games with Chara as the TOI leader, snapped. ... Rask made 17 saves on just 19 Ranger shots.
Final Thoughts: It was an important game for the Bruins on several levels, but the biggest was that the team needed a good response after the disastrous loss in Detroit on Wednesday. Looking energized and aggressive, the Bruins dominated for long stretches, and bounced back well after New York's two quick goals late in the first period. The Bergeron goal was the sign of some strong work by the entire line, which is finally starting to jell, and the defense continues to hold it together with one of two regular starters in Adam McQuaid still out with an injury. Giving up the two goals showed a lack of discipline by a team that had barely any in Detroit, but what followed those lapses was an encouraging sign for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.
Next: The B's get right back to business Saturday night, welcoming Columbus to TD Garden at 7 p.m.