Rangers Win Fierce Battle Over Bruins
In a highly anticipated matchup of the Eastern Conference's best, the Rangers took every punch the Bruins threw - literally - and prevailed. @JoeBianchino
A lot has been made recently of the ever-bitter and ever-developing rivalry between New York and Boston. Giants-Patriots. Knicks-Celtics. And of course Yankees-Red Sox. Well after Sunday's boxing match, at which one hell of a hockey game broke out, you can add Rangers-Bruins to the mix.
For the bulk of the season these two teams have sat atop the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have gotten the best of the Bruins, however, entering Sunday's game undefeated against their rivals in two rough, heated affairs and having extended a conference lead to ten points before Sunday's action. The sour emotions born in those first two games lay simmering for almost three weeks, until Sunday when - with Boston trailing 2-0 early - they boiled over in the form of three first period fights.
The early animosity lingered throughout the game, even if the Ranger lead did not. Early goals by Stralman and Hagelin were canceled out as the Rangers found themselves horribly outplayed from the ten minute mark of the first period through the end of the second period. The rarely riled Lundqvist turned back the constant pressure of the Bruins, however, and kept his squad level as the third period began. In that third period, the grit and determination that has come to characterize this young Ranger team finally materialized. A goal from Gaborik gave the Rangers the lead and the momentum, and when one mistake lost them that lead midway through the third, the Rangers went to work. Unfazed, youngster Derek Stepan unloaded a wicked shot over Tim Thomas' left shoulder, restoring the Ranger lead.
The scramble defense and superb goaltending of Lundqvist that had kept the Rangers level during the Bruin surge, withheld one final push as the Rangers held on for their third straight win over the Bruins. For Boston, the loss is another disappointment in a long run of bad play that has the Bruins just 6-9-1 since February first. For the Rangers, the win not only gives them an unheard of lead over the Eastern Conference, but also moves them a point clear of Vancouver - and the rest of the league - in the race for the President's Trophy.
It has been an absurdly impressive season for the Rangers who continue to rely on an inspiring combination of chemistry, youth, toughness and will. Questions remain as to whether their power play is good enough to win a Stanley Cup, or whether or not they really needed another goal scorer at the trade deadline, or if they have peaked too early. But for now, it looks like the Eastern Conference runs through Madison Square Garden.