In his first game against the Rangers since holding them to 10 goals in five games in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series last spring, Rask made 43 saves Tuesday to help the Bruins to a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.
With Jari Kurri, the general manager of the Finnish national team, on hand, Rask made his case for a starting job at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by stealing a win on a night his team was outshot 44-22.
The Rangers, buoyed by the return of forward Rick Nash, dominated puck possession against a Bruins team that came to New York after beating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in Raleigh on Monday and lost defenseman Dennis Seidenberg after one shift. Seidenberg left 2:16 into the game with a lower-body injury and did not return. Coach Claude Julien said Seidenberg would be evaluated Wednesday.
The Bruins got all of their offense from the defensive-oriented trio of Paille, Thornton and Gregory Campbell, known as "the Merlot Line." But the star of the night was Rask, whose 43 saves were a season-high.
"When you're out there, you don't really expect a goal to go in. You just know how good he is," defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "You know if there's a shot, he's probably going to save it."
The Rangers entered the game hoping the return of Nash, who missed 17 games with a head injury, could spark a struggling offense that has scored two goals in three games. Nash, playing for the first time since Oct. 8, played 17:55 and had five shots on goal, including one on a partial breakaway in the first period.
"We had a good game. Obviously it wasn't good enough. We can't afford to give up goals on our power play," Nash said. "We've got to be better at finishing. We had lot of chances, lots of shots. We have to get better at getting traffic and burying out chances."
The Rangers outshot the Bruins 16-6 in the first period but couldn't get anything past Rask -- not even a penalty shot.
With Zdeno Chara off for high-sticking, Massachusetts native Chris Kreider was awarded the penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway by Johnny Boychuk 6:16 into the game. Kreider, who grew up 30 miles from Boston and attended Boston College, skated down right wing and fired a wrist shot to the far side, only to be denied by Rask's right pad.
"Obviously I have to give him a ton of credit. He had a great game and he's a great goaltender," Kreider said of Rask. "I think when I hit my spot, it tends to go in, especially when I'm pretty close and in pretty tight."
The Bruins finally gave Rask some support help early in the second period
Shortly after New York killed off an interference penalty to John Moore, Thornton stole the puck at his own blue line and led a 2-on-1 break with Brad Marchand. Thornton, a healthy scratch in Carolina, wired a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that beat Lundqvist high to the glove side at 4:58 for his third of the season.
Paille doubled the lead at 11:30 with a shorthanded goal. David Krejci was off for interference when Paille batted the puck off the neutral-zone boards, beat Ryan Callahan to the loose puck and backhanded a shot between Henrik Lundqvist's legs for his 10th career shorthanded goal.
"Going against Lundqvist, I try to keep it simple. I don't want to do too much," Paille said. "I was able to make a fake and open up his five-hole."
The Rangers got one back 51 seconds after Paille's goal. With Krejci still in the box, Brassard took a pass from Moore in the left circle and fired a shot that went between Boychuk's legs and beat Rask wide to the glove side at 12:31. It was the first power-play goal allowed by Boston in nine games; the Bruins had killed off 33 consecutive penalties before Brassard scored.
New York kept the play in the Boston end for much of the third. And with his troops starting to tire, Julien went back to the Merlot Line. Campbell saw more ice time in the third period (5:46) than in the previous two periods combined (3:51). Thornton played 3:46 in the third, almost matching his total of 3:47 from the first two periods.
"Going down a D-man definitely drains the defense. Especially the way they play physical and try to wear our guys out," Paille said. "Guys like myself or Shawn have a little more energy towards the end of the game. I guess we have the fortunate luck to not play as much so we're not as tired."
Seidenberg's injury forced the Bruins to go with five defensemen for almost the entire game. Hamilton set a career high with 24:24 of ice time and Matt Bartkowski's 21:13 was the most he has ever played in a regular-season game. Chara led all players with 31:27, his highest regular-season total since Jan. 22, 2012.
The Bruins' defense bent but didn't break.
"It's a sign of a good team and the character we have in this room, especially on a back-to-back night," Rask said. "Everybody is playing a lot of minutes and you can tell they're getting tired. We never gave up. At the end of the night, we got rewarded."
|Zdeno Chara Hi-sticking against Mats Zuccarello|
|Gregory Campbell Fighting (maj) against Derek Dorsett|
|Derek Dorsett Fighting (maj) against Gregory Campbell|
|John Moore Interference against Chris Kelly|
|David Krejci Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Derek Dorsett Tripping against Daniel Paille|
|Derek Dorsett Interference on goalkeeper against Tuukka Rask|
|Brad Marchand Cross checking against Mats Zuccarello|