By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Claude Julien was the vision of an irate hockey coach in the first period after the New York Rangers scored the only goal of Saturday afternoons matinee at TD Garden, and he had good reason.
Derek Stepan made a nice tip off a Mike Sauer point shot to get a puck past Tuukka Rask, and give the Rangers a 1-0 lead they would protect for more than two periods of defensive hockey; but it never should have happened.
First Marian Gaborik was clearly off-sides entering the Boston zone with slightly more than six minutes gone in the first period, but it went unrecognized by the linesman, and a shot on net resulted in a face-off within the Bs defensive area.
This time Vinny Prospal cheated the draw, and jumped into the face-off circle early on a busted play that led to Sauers blast from the point that Stepan tipped home for his 20th goal of the season. With both teams within the NHLs top five in goals against average (the Bruins are third with 2.34 GAA and the Rangers are right behind in fifth with a 2.37 GAA), Julien knew that the goal was a big game-changer that early in the game, and was rightfully indignant at two major miscalls in a row.
Julien explained it in golfing terms, but its pretty clear he wasnt about to extend any golf clap courtesies for a refereeing crew that didnt have their sharpest afternoon.
It was a missed off-sides, but they make mistakes, said Julien. But then the guy jumps in and the guy who passed it to the point was obviously in and it should have been blown down. So, that one point, you know? Theres one mulligan but I didnt feel that they needed two.
Despite the bad calls, the Bs coach wasnt about to absolve his players for deciding not to show up until five minutes remained in the third period, however, and Julien intimated that his team was simply too soft on the puck against a big, strong, physical Rangers squad.
It took us a while to get going. I thought that the other team played a pretty solid game, said Julien in summarizing the game. They were strong on the puck, they were solid, they were gritty, and we were a little light on our sticks there for the first 40 minutes. That kind of put us in a bad situation and in the third period it was too little too late.
The Bruins missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot when they dropped the game to the Rangers as the Carolina Hurricanes lost their game on Saturday as well so the Bs will clinch a playoff spot with their next victory that can come as quickly as Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Mark Recchis next point would tie him with Paul Coffey for 12th on the NHL's career scoring list. Recchi had been credited with an assist in Thursdays win over the Canadiens that was taken away by a scorer's change after the game.
The line of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci had zero shots on net through the first two periods of play against the New York Rangers, and finished with only two shots on net in a rare off night for the Bs top line. Krejci, in particular, seemed to be having a tough time finding room to operate with the puck in the offensive zone, and really never made any adjustments in creating against the very physical Rangers defensive unit.
I think its that we didnt get pucks in deep and we didnt get our feet going early enough. Thats where we had success the last couple games, said Julien. So we forced a lot of things and consequently our top line didnt have a shot after two periods. And you know that when those kinds of things happen, were not doing the things that we should be doing.
Tuukka Rask earned the No. 3 star in the loss to the Rangers, and very nearly matched Henrik Lundqvist save-for-save in a performance thats dropped him to 5-2-1 over his last eight games, and makes it a bit more unlikely that the 23-year-old is going to push his personal record over the .500 mark this season.
Despite all that, Rask finished with 23 saves and stopped everything aside from the Derek Stepan tipped puck in the first period.
I think hes been pretty good lately. I think Tuukkas played pretty solid hockey for us in the last month, said Julien. Its been refreshing I think for everybody, including himself, and we can move forward here knowing that we got two goaltenders that can do the job for us.
The Bruins recognized legendary radio announcer Bob Wilson on Saturday afternoon with a ceremonial puck drop prior to the game, and the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the TD Garden home radio booth on the 9th floor in his name. Wilson was the radio voice of the Bs during the Stanley Cup teams of the 1970s captained by Bobby Orr, and has retired in recent years to New Hampshire where he continues to watch Bs hockey on a regular basis.
The Stanley Cup in1972 was certainly a highlight of my career and its the last Stanley Cup goal that the Bruins scored, said Wilson. It was interesting, Phil Esposito told me after the game that Bobby Orr came up to him on that final face-off with about 20 seconds, 30 seconds left in the game and he said Get the puck to me an Ill kill it off.
That was Bobby talking to Phil. Get it to me and Ill take care of the rest. It was an exciting time and the welcome at Logan Airport in the middle of the nightthat was fun.