While their coach his the players would admit it prior to the game, the New York Rangers did acknowledge that their tilt against the Boston Bruins would be a good measuring stick. The game pitted the Eastern Conference's best team, New York, and the conference's second-best, Boston, and the Rangers passed with flying colors, winning 3-2 with 3.6 seconds remaining in overtime via a Marian Gaborik goal.
While its power play looked pathetic for much of the game, New York took advantage of an unfortunate one in the extra frame that forced Ryan McDonagh from the game. McDonagh went to retrieve a puck at the backboards behind Henrik Lundqvist and was blasted at 1:50 from behind by Andrew Ference. McDonagh was practically motionless for several minutes on the ice, before leaving and not returning to the bench. New York was awarded a five-minute power play and Ference was also given a misconduct.
The man advantage was lost in all three chances, but managed to put forth its best effort as the time ticked down in overtime. Brad Richards brought the puck into the zone and saw Ryan Callahan at the crease with nobody on him. Tuuka Rask then made two brilliant saves. Callahan flicked a shot that Rask kicked aside. Richards sent a back-hander at the sprawling netminder who made another beauty. And Gaborik cleaned up with a rising back hander to give the Rangers a much-deserved victory and two-point lead in the conference.
Make no mistake about it: this clash between the East's two teams lived up to its billing. There was physicality (27-12 hits advantage for New York, though), chippiness (Mike Rupp-Shawn Thornton fought in the second period), offensive excitement (34-33 shot advantage for Boston) and some stellar defense.
The first period was a scoreless one -- and the Rangers kicked it off by being a bit sluggish, perhaps aided by Boston playing in front of its home crowd. But they weathered the storm and found their legs -- and from about midway through the period showed they were ready to play their game.
All the goal scoring prior to the OT winner occurred in the second period. Coming off the bench after a penalty, Ryan Callahan scooped up a loose puck, went down the left flank and wristed a shot past Rask. But the Bruins answered right back as Ference beat Lundqvist. Gaborik scored the first of his goals on a slapper at 14:30. It looked like the Rangers would enter the third having to protect a lead, yet again Boston showed its resliency, as Adam McQuaid fired a shot that deflected off Brfian Boyle's stick and over LUndqvist.
The Rangers were forced to kill off their fourth penalty early in the third and did so magnificently. They also had their first two power plays, which could have really put the Bruins behind the eight-ball, but, again, it struggled.
Regardless, the Rangers proved to everyone that they can play with the best in the league. They'll get Sunday off before practicing Monday for a game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. In the meantime, everyone will be crossing their fingers that McDonagh is OK.