One team clinched at Madison Square Garden Sunday night, but it wasn’t the Rangers.
With a pair of second-period goals in a tight playoff-like match, Bruins secured not only the Northeast Division title but the No. 2 seed in the East heading into the playoffs.
Boston erased a 1-0 lead built on Marian Gaborik’s 40th goal of the season and went on to edge New York, snapping the Rangers' four-game winning streak and denying them a series sweep.
Because of Pittsburgh’s 6-4 loss to Philadelphia earlier Sunday afternoon, New York entered the match with the chance to clinch the top spot in the East and the Atlantic Division title. However, a few mistakes coupled with an impressive performance from Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas prevented them from grabbing the sole point needed to do so against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
“Obviously, they had success last year. They won the prize we all want,” center Brian Boyle said. “They know how to play; we do too. We’re similar, I think. Physically, I think we have some balance in our lineup, goaltending’s good. It’s going to be tight. One bounce here or there, and that was the case [tonight].”
The most inopportune bounce of the night led to the game-deciding goal in the second period, when Boston’s Tyler Seguin poked the puck away from Dan Girardi in the corner and found Patrice Bergeron to tuck away the winner at 11:52.
And while Boston was outshot an overwhelming 19-3 in the third, Thomas preserved his team’s one-goal lead with a strong showing in goal.
“Thomas was the difference,” coach John Tortorella said. “He made some key saves at key times. It’s that type of game, these games against Boston. It’s just that one little mistake and it goes into the net…These are hard games.”
The intensity will not abate over the next week, either. Next the Rangers travel to Philadelphia Tuesday then on to Pittsburgh Thursday before returning home to Madison Square Garden to host the Capitals.
Fortunately for the Rangers, they control their own destiny in the three games remaining as they seek still just one point from owning the No. 1 seed in the East.
“You don’t go into a game thinking about one point,” alternate captain Brad Richards said after the team’s latest loss. “It would have been nice to win. We all know what’s at stake, but we’ve still got three games left in the season to continue what we want to do here. It was a big game for getting ready for the playoffs. It was that type of game.”