BOSTON -- There was no doubt in New York Rangers coach John Tortorella's mind that his team deserved at least a power play in overtime after Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference pushed Rangers counterpart Ryan McDonagh into the end wall Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
"It's one of the most dangerous hits I've seen in a while," Tortorella said. "And nothing has to be said as far as what should be done. I'm not going to play that. But it's a pretty easy call as far as I'm concerned."
The ensuing five-minute major for charging at 1:50 of overtime gave the Rangers plenty of time to strike for the game-winner. Marian Gaborik made sure the lengthy man-advantage didn't go to waste by scoring his second goal of the day with just 3.6 seconds left for a 3-2 Rangers victory in a battle of the Eastern Conference's top two teams.
Gaborik, the Rangers' leading scorer, had been goal-less in his prior seven games until he lit the lamp at 14:30 of the second period to give New York a 2-1 lead. His second goal came after Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask (30 saves) made two sprawling stops to deny New York forwards Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards. Gaborik cashed in on the Rangers' third opportunity in tight.
"It certainly feels nice to help the team this way, as well," Gaborik said. "And these slumps happen to everyone. I'm glad that I could come up with a couple goals and most importantly to help the team to win. So I think everybody contributed."
New York has now won five of its last six road games and leads Boston by two points for the top spot in the conference, though the Bruins have a game in hand. This victory might've been extra special because it was the first Rangers-Bruins matchup of the season, and they've been running 1-2 in the East for a couple of months now.
"Going into the game it had a little bit extra feeling and, you know, a little bit motivation knowing you're playing a team that's right behind you in the conference, obviously defending Stanley Cup champions, too," Callahan said. "So the atmosphere in the room, the atmosphere on the ice was as close as you could get to a playoff feel this early in the season. But I thought the guys stepped up well, we handled ourselves through the ups and downs of the game and it's a big game for us."
The Ference hit on McDonagh occurred as both players were chasing a dump-in into the New York zone. McDonagh skated off under his own power after doctors attended to him. Tortorella had no update on the blueliner's status after the game.
"I'm obviously going as fast as I can to try and get to the puck," said Ference, who acknowledged he might be facing supplemental discipline. "I realized I wasn't going to get there first, he boxed me out, I tried to lean back, but I was going too fast. Obviously it was a dangerous position, so I tried to let up and didn't let up fast enough."
Said Bruins coach Claude Julien: "It was a great game; you don't want to see a player get injured. It just made for an unfortunate ending to a great game, so that's basically all I'm going to say right now. Ference isn't a dirty player – he's one of those guys who supports what the League is trying to do as far as minimizing those injuries. It was a player chasing the puck, and when he did get hit, his legs were pretty far apart. There wasn't a good balance from their player and [it] certainly resulted in an unfortunate thing. We'll let the League look at it. They dissect things in their own way, and we'll just wait to hear from them."
The Bruins had earned a trip to overtime because with 49 seconds remaining in the second period, Adam McQuaid answered Gaborik's goal with the tying score. Both of Boston's goals came off the stick of defensemen, as Ference had scored another tying goal 3:28 in that middle stanza.
After a scoreless first period, Callahan scored on an off-wing shot from the left dot after the Rangers had killed a Boston power play. The Rangers' penalty kill, which started the day ranked third in the NHL was a perfect 4-for-4 and is now 29-for-30 in its last 13 games.
"If we were going to score more goals, we really needed some grinding work in front of their net, and at times you saw it," said Julien, whose teams attempted 66 shots but had 22 blocked by the Rangers. "Probably, we needed our power play to cash in for us, and even [in] those outnumbered situations, you have to at least get a shot, so if we really want to critique our game, that would be the areas I'd critique."