Ryan Spooner found room down the right side and sped in on Henrik Lundqvist just over a minute into the game, before being turned aside.
At the other end, Tuukka Rask had to be just as sharp.
The tight matchup continued all night long, but the Bruins ended it the way they began: just short.
Jimmy Hayes finally broke through Lundqvist midway through the second period, but a quick goal by the Rangers just 35 seconds into the third period and a late game-winner with just 1:42 to go gave the home team a 2-1 victory.
It handed the Bruins their second straight loss. They now sit at 1-1-1 on their five game road trip, having taken three of six points so far. They next face the Flyers in Philadelphia on Wednesday and the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday.
Though the game featured chances at both ends, and strong goaltending from both sides, the Bruins should have been able to build on their 1-0 lead heading into the third period.
“Of course we wanted it,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s obvious that we want to win the games.”
Boston was frustrated, though, that it couldn’t bear down on its many opportunities, even if Lundqvist was between the pipes.
“Yeah, but sometimes it goes the other way, too, so today just wasn’t our day,” said Rask.
“We knew they were going to come out [in the third] — I didn’t feel like we were on our heels that much,” said the netminder, who ended the night with 28 saves on 30 shots. “They just got the goal right off the bat, so then maybe gave them a little momentum there."
“But I thought we battled back well. One bounce here or there decides the game and I thought maybe we could have deserved at least a point, but that’s not how the hockey goes all the time.”
“It’s a loss, so it is what it is.”
Early in the final frame, Ryan McDonagh won a battle with David Pastrnak along the boards and Mats Zuccarello cut towards the front of the net where he fed Derick Brassard all alone in front for the 1-1 tying goal.
Soon after, Max Talbot had a prime chance at the other end. The Bruins’ fourth line of Talbot, Landon Ferraro and Zac Rinaldo was buzzing all night and racked up nine shots on goal. Ferraro even landed time with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the third. And with only one penalty called all game (on the Rangers’ Jayson Megna), the Black & Gold were able to roll four lines.
Talbot’s bid in the third may have been the best of the night for Boston. He put a rebound towards the net and Lundqvist recovered enough to stretch out his right leg on the shot. The crowd broke into a “Hen-rik,” “Hen-rik” chant.
At the other end, Viktor Stalberg rang a chance off the post behind Rask.
Both teams kept pushing. The Rangers pushed a little harder.
With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle sent a shot from the left point that was going about “six feet” wide from Rask’s point of view. The puck was deflected and Jesper Fast got his stick on it to get it past Rask with 1:42 left.
The Bruins hadn’t necessarily let up before the go-ahead goal got through.
“It’s a 1-1 hockey game, you know?” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “And there’s no doubt — they had no reason to walk in to the net the way they did, but at the same time, it was probably the second [goal] — you’ve got to learn to win those tight hockey games or at least get yourself to overtime.”
“We need a little bit more desperation at the end that we didn’t have.”
The Bruins sent an extra attacker on the ice for the rest of the game. They again created chances. At one point, the puck was sitting right above the blue paint. Loui Eriksson had been screening in front. Marchand was jamming. Spooner was on the doorstep, too.
They had one last offensive zone faceoff with 3.4 on the clock. Marchand immediately sent a drive towards the goal that went wide. The buzzer soon sounded. The Bruins would be heading to Philadelphia without two more points.
“Well, we knew they were going to push,” said Talbot. “They’re a team that just did that their last game against Washington, they came back in the third, so we talked about that, about coming out as hard in the third as we did in the second.”
“But you know, they had a good shift their first shift, so obviously a momentum swing a little bit, but I think we worked hard. It’s not like they dominated us for the third period, so it’s frustrating because you want to get out of this building with two points and you don’t.”
“I mean, that last goal could easily happen at the other end, too,” said Rask, who usually wears his emotions postgame, and didn’t seem displeased with the Bruins’ effort. “It’s just one of those plays that happens sometimes, but obviously, these are the kind of games you have to learn to win to be a successful team and today we didn’t.”
In addition to Spooner’s chance in the opening minute, the center had at least two more scoring bids, with the best one coming early in the second, when he found himself at the top of the crease after a giveaway by Rangers forward Chris Kreider. Spooner had Lundqvist beat, but then hit the post on his final move.
Spooner helped the Bruins convert a few minutes later to put them up 1-0, when he pounced on a Kreider giveaway caused by Chara. He then fed Hayes, who ripped a snap shot cleanly by Lundqvist from the high slot.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Hayes. “It’s one you don’t want to give up, but we’ve got to get back at it and get back and find a way to get back on a win streak.”
Brett Connolly, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Ottawa, could have made it 2-0 game for the Bruins towards the end of the second, when he curled and dragged but rang the post and was left shaking his head afterwards.
“I think both teams competed very hard and we carried the momentum for most of this game — Lundqvist played very solid obviously and we hit a couple of posts,” said Talbot. “It’s frustrating, especially the way they scored with a couple of minutes left. It makes it even more frustrating.”
At .500 on the road trip, the Bruins can’t afford to let up or let the lost points get to them.
“We’ll just keep plugging away and try and get the wins,” said Rask. “I mean, I felt like we played decent hockey out in New Jersey, it was a good game, and Ottawa maybe not so much, but today, I thought we played a road game and just have to keep it going.”
“Only thing is we have to find ways to score goals like we did in Jersey, but other than that, I think we’re fine.”