By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Rangers came into Sunday's contest at Madison Square Garden against the Boston Bruins with the chance to clinch first place in the Eastern Conference. However Tim Thomas rediscovered his Vezina Trophy form between the pipes, and the defending Stanley Cup champions edged the Rangers 2-1, delaying a clinching for at leats another two nights.
With three games left to play, and a five-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers need to secure only one more point in the standings---or have the Penguins lose one more point---in order to seal the deal as conference champions. Next up for the Rangers is a tilt with the Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Thomas made 33 saves for the Bruins, who are now 5-0-1 in their last six games. He stopped all 19 shots he faced in the third period when the Rangers dominated play and outshot Boston 19-3. Thomas' most clutch save was spectacular stop on Artem Anisimov with less than a minute to play in regulation.
The Rangers' night got off to a rousing start when Marian Gaborik opened the scoring by netting his 40th goal of the season just 4:33 into the game. Gaborik scored on a breakaway after Zdeno Chara's slap shot hit teammate Jordan Caron with the puck deflecting back towards the point to Gaborik, who scooped it up and headed the other way. Gaborik fired a low shot past Thomas, reaching the 40-goal plateau for the third time in his career---and second time in three seasons as a member of the Rangers.
However after Gaborik's goal the Bruins slowly started taking over the game, and even though they failed to score before the arrival of the first intermission, the Bruins had more than leveled the playing field. Four minutes into the second period Boston's hard work paid off as they tied the game 1-1.
Dennis Seidenberg hammered a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist to pull the Bruins even. And a bit less than eight minutes later the Bruins took the lead when Patrice Bergeron stuffed a shot past Lundqvist from the right post. The power play goal---with Michael Del Zotto in the box---was created when Tyler Seguin tipped a Dan Girardi pass from behind the net to Bergeron, whose quick hands resulted in his 22nd goal of the season.
The Rangers were handed a prime chance to pull even early in the third period when they skated with a two-man advanatge for 22 seconds. Despite a pair of quality scoring chances, the Rangers were unable to dent Thomas either at 5-on-3 or 5-on-4, and they continued to trail 2-1.
Lundqvist turned aside 19 of 21 shots, while making his ninth consecutive start for the Rangers, who had their four-game winning streak snapped with the loss on Sunday.