Haggerty: Bruins-Rangers a statement game

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Haggerty: Bruins-Rangers a statement game

UNIONDALE, NY If any team has had the Bruins number over the last three years, it is the New York Rangers and their All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

The Blueshirts have captured all three meetings against the Bruins this season and won nine of the last 11 meetings with the reigning Stanley Cup champs.

There is nobody else in either conference that has dominated the Bs quite like the hard-charging Rangers have.

When the top two teams in the Eastern Conference play Sunday night at Madison Square Garden a statement will be made by these two rugged hockey teams who could meet each other in the Eastern Conference Finals this spring.

The Rangers have essentially been No. 1 all season, and theyre looking to prove their readiness for a long, bountiful playoff journey after some early exits over the last few seasons.

The Bruins just want a little respect.

Boston played well in their last trip to Madison Square Garden a fight-filled grudge match between the two rivals in the East that also featured some pretty good hockey from the Bs after falling behind by a 2-0 score.

But in the end Lundqvist once again outplayed Thomas, and the Rangers won, 4-3. After the game, Thomas jokingly faulted the yellowish stage lighting for his inability to see the puck.

The Bruins are looking for a different result in this final regular season clash with the Rangers. It would be meaningful to prove they can beat Lundqvist and the Rangers in their backyard if push comes to shove in the playoffs.

Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan have all given Boston their share of challenges over the last couple of years during battles with New York, but its Lundqvist and the strong, leak-proof New York defense that provides the biggest threat to Bs effectiveness.

Lundqvist is now 19-5-2 with a 1.51 goals against average, a .948 save percentage and six shutouts in 26 games against the Bruins, and is on the tip of every Boston players tongue when they are asked to name the NHLs best goaltender.

In short, King Henrik is in Bostons head a little bit. They need to get him out before a potential seven-game series this spring.

The plan is pretty simple on the Bruins end, and it involves equal parts courage and determination. Zdeno Chara has seven points in his last four games and David Krejci has three multi-point games in a row so the Bruins offense is finally hitting Gotham feeling good about themselves. They need to find a way to turn Charas big shot and the traffic in front of the net into offense against the Rangers.

Theres no doubting hes an excellent goaltender and hes had some very good games against us. There is a challenge there for us to go out and have success against him and the Rangers, said Chris Kelly. But it always comes back to the same things against good goaltender -- making them move around and getting plenty of good traffic moving in front of them. Even the best goalies cant stop what they cant see.

Its the perfect time for Boston to face their New York nemesis as theyve gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They finally seem in perfect playoff pitch after faltering through .500 hockey for more than two months. Boston could even have the Northeast Division all wrapped up by the time their game gets going if the Ottawa Senators fall to the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon.

If not, the Bruins will have double the motivation against the Rangers knowing a win would make a long-ranging statement and lock them into one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference. But for a team thats suffered through one-goal games in 16 of the last 20 meetings between the Bruins and the Rangers, more than anything else the Bruins are looking for a gritty, playoff-style match against a Blueshirts team that normally matches them in the work-ethic department.

I think its a great test for both the team and for me as were getting ready for the playoffs. These are the kinds of games we need to play to make sure were ready, said Tyler Seguin. We havent done the greatest against them. Hopefully we can show them what we can bring just in case we meet them a couple of weeks from now in the playoffs as well.

With four games left the Rangers game will represent the last big push by the Bruins before they start resting some of their key players, and give Tim Thomas a little down time prior to an expected long postseason run.

The Bs need to show they have one last big punch in them on a Sunday night prime time exchange with the Rangers. Then it will be all about the postseason for the Bruins, who have been waiting all year for this time of the season to arrive.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.