Bruins take down Rangers, 3-1

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Bruins take down Rangers, 3-1

BOSTON -- The Bruins opened the shortened season with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night at the TD Garden.

Tuukka Rask made 20 saves in his first game without Tim Thomas in the equation, while Boston was able to put 34 shots on goal and beat Henrik Lundqvist three times.

The Bruins saw their first goal of the season with 5:46 left in the first period, as Milan Lucic -- who was later ejected in the third period because of a game misconduct -- put home a juicy rebound in the slot as he skated hard to the net. Lundqvist kicked out a David Krejci shot from the right boards, and Lucic beat a Rangers defenseman to the loose puck and put it into the open net for the 1-0 lead.

Daniel Paille gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, after he re-directed a Greg Campbell snap shot from the right boards. Paille was cutting in front of the net and got a piece of the puck that just snuck by Lundqvist.

The Rangers cut the lead to 2-1 when Brad Richards beat Rask upstairs with a wrist shot from the right point. Richards was originally trying to send a pass through the slot, down to Rick Nash, but Patrice Bergeron blocked that attempt. The puck came right back out to Richards, who quickly wristed it past a screened Rask, with 7:10 left in the second period.

Patrice Bergeron gave the B's a 3-1 lead midway through the third period after he ever-so-slightly knocked down a high Johnny Boychuk shot from the right point. Boychuk took a clean Bergeron faceoff win and let it go. Boychuk was actually credited with the goal, but it looked to have been tipped by Bergeron before getting under Lundqvist's glove and in the net.

GOLD STAR: Milan Lucic didnt want to dwell on it too much, but it was clear that No. 17 was highly motivated by the many people questioning whether his conditioning was up to par to start the season. The Bruins power forward scored the first goal of the game to get things rolling for the Black and Gold, and was a consistent physical presence for the Bs while doling out a team-high four hits. The snarl in Lucics game was evident when he get onto a fracas with Mike Rupp and Ryan McDonagh with less than six minutes to go in the third period, and was bounced from the game with a 10-minute misconduct when he ignored officials directing him to get off the ice. The Bruins can only hope that Lucic plays with that kind of an edge all season.

BLACK EYE: Where was the big Rangers debut from Rick Nash that everybody was talking about? He finished with two shots on net and picked up an assist on Brad Richards second period goal, but he was really a non-factor in the proceedings with Zdeno Chara draped all over him. The only time he got the better of the 6-foot-9 defensive stopper was when he was able to draw a hooking penalty on Chara while driving straight to the net. There wasnt nearly enough NorthSouth play out of Nash against the Bruins on Saturday night, however, and the franchise power forward is going to find himself answering a lot more questions now than he ever would have in Columbus after such an underwhelming showing.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron put together a typical game for the Selke Trophy winner: a team-high five shots on net, a face-off win and screen on Johnny Boychuks insurance goal in the third period and won 12-of-17 draws in typical machine-like fashion. Bergeron also gets the hockey tough award for the night after taking a puck in the face during the first few minutes of the game, and not missing a shift despite a nice little gash around his mouth following the game. Bergeron finished second only to Chris Kelly among Bs forwards with his 17:48 of ice time.

TURNING POINT: The Rangers looked like they were gathering a foothold when Brad Richards snapped home a shot from the high slot to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. But thats when the Bs energy line got involved and wrestled back the momentum. Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves and bloodied Mike Rupp and then Gregory Campbell took down Stu Bickel on the next two face-offs, and then the pumped Bs teammates responded with five dominant shifts to win back the momentum. The sequence just goes to show how vital a fully functional fourth line is to the Bruins fate this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-7 the Bruins impressed with their five-on-five play and their penalty kill, but some things dont change and they finished fruitless on the man advantage.

QUOTE TO NOTE: I give credit to the guys, obviously the guys that went over to Europe and played were playing at a high level and doing a good job. But I give credit to the guys who didnt. I think a lot of guys out there tonight didnt look out of place and I thought the game was good, professional. The guys were acting like professionals even during the frustrating time of not playing amid the lockout. Andrew Ference on not being able to tell the difference between players that went to Europe or those that skated at home during the lockout.

Joe Haggerty contributed portions of this column.

Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

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Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins knew they needed to find stellar performances somewhere in order to come out of a must-win game vs. the Islanders with two points, and they got exactly that.

Riley Nash had his best game as a member of the Bruins with a pair of goals scored in a 2-1 win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center that snapped a four game losing streak, and pushed them back into the wild card playoff spot.

It wasn’t a perfect game for the Black and Gold by any means and it was nip-and-tuck all the way, but it was important for the Bruins to show they could pull out those kinds of games late in the season.

Things didn’t look all that great early when John Tavares cut through the Bruins defense in the first period, and whistled a wrist shot from the high slot that went through Adam McQuaid’s legs before beating Anton Khudobin. The Bruins responded, however, on the very next shift with Nash stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone, and beating Thomas Greiss short side for the important game-tying goal.

It looked like the Bruins had their go-ahead score in the first period on a second-effort power play goal by Frank Vatrano, but that was wiped out by a coach’s challenge that ruled David Backes interfered with Greiss in front of the New York net.

So the Bruins needed to wait until the third period when Boston’s fourth line stepped up and won the massively important game for Boston. Dominic Moore fed Riley Nash hustling into the offensive zone, and he weaved through the Islanders defense before snapping a shot past Greiss for his second goal of the game and his seventh on the season for the Bruins. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.