By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Rangers' resolve was tested repeatedly Sunday afternoon in their critical game against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden, though perhaps none more so than when they surrendered the game-tying goal with 8:18 to play in regulation.
Yet, as they have done all season long, the Rangers found a way to battle through adversity. And so 39 seconds after David Krejci tied the score for Boston late in the third period, Derek Stepan drilled a left wing slap shot past Tim Thomas to hand the Rangers a 4-3 victory.
The win---the Rangers' third in three games against Boston this season---increased the Blueshirts lead in the East over Boston to 12 points with 18 games remaining in the regular season. The Pittsburgh Penguins trail the Rangers by ten points, but since they are in the same division as the Blueshirts, they sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The goal was Stepan's 14th of the season and was set up by a nice outlet pass off the stick of Michael Del Zotto---back in the lineup after missing Friday's game in Tampa with a sore hip. While Del Zotto returned to the lineup Sunday, and contributed a pair of assists, team captain Ryan Callahan missed his third straight game for the Rangers---who are 4-0-1 in their last five games---with a contusion of the right foot.
Tied 2-2 entering the third period, the Rangers regained the lead at 3:14 when Marian Gaborik went to the net and converted his 32nd goal of the season. Gaborik's goal came moments after he was turned away by Thomas on a 3-on-1 rush. But the Rangers maintained posession of the puck, and it found its way to a wide-open Gaborik, who netted his third goal in the past three games---and fifth in the last six games.
The Rangers had scored twice on their first four shots, taking a 2-0 lead just 6:15 into the contest. Anton Stralman's shot from the top of the left circle beat Thomas short side at 5:05; and then Carl Hagelin's centering pass for a cutting Brandon Dubinsky defelcted off Boston defenseman Greg Zanon and into the net 70 seconds later.
Boston surged right back with Benoit Pouliot scoring his 10th goal at 7:59 to make it 2-1 Rangers. The Bruins then dominated the second period territorially, outshooting New York 10-3, and Jordan Caron scored off a Dan Girardi turnover to tie the game 1:40 into the middle stanza. But Henrik Lundqvist made several key stops, and the game remained tied until the exciiting final period of play.
Lundqvist earned his 31st victory of the season, finishing with 30 saves. Brad Richards contributed a pair of assists to the win, while Marc Staal played a splendid game on defense and finished with a plus-3 plus/minus rating.
The game---which featured three fights---ended with a scrum behind the Rangers net when Ryan McDonagh objected to a late, high hit from Milan Lucic.