BOSTON -- The Rangers have been playing their best, and their most consistent, hockey recently, so it was not out of character when they spent the bulk of the first 40 minutes on Friday afternoon carrying the play in one of the toughest rinks in the NHL to be a visitor. But the Boston Bruins have the best record in the League, and David Pastrnak is having a standout campaign, for a reason, and when the Rangers were unable to land a put-away blow early, it was the home side that snuck away with the extra point late.
David Krejci's goal off of Pastrnak's superb setup 1:40 into overtime sent the Rangers to a 3-2 Black Friday defeat in Beantown, leaving the Blueshirts to settle for a single point - their fourth straight game with at least one of those - out of the home rink of the NHL leaders. The Rangers came to town riding a three-game winning streak and left with a record of 4-1-1 in their last six games - two of them against teams that were leading the NHL at the time - as they head into the second leg of back-to-back matinees on Saturday afternoon in New Jersey.
"We came into a hard arena and we got a point," Brendan Lemieux said afterward. "It's not good enough; we definitely want to get two points, and we've got to learn to play with the lead a little bit better. But that was a pretty solid effort."
The Rangers have a solid list of what to feel good about coming out of this game: The way they hounded people and pucks, the way the Bruins never got behind them for the majority of the game, the way they forechecked and for a long time held the lid on the highest-scoring team in hockey.
But as Lemieux said in the aftermath, "We want to win games," and to that end, the Rangers will be left lamenting their opportunities to put two points in the bag, with six power plays in the game, including a 5-on-3 in the second period and a four-minute man-advantage in a tie game late in the third.
Pavel Buchnevich and Fil Chytil each scored for the Blueshirts to build up a two-goal lead before the game's halfway point, and Henrik Lundqvist - tending goal for the Rangers for the 873rd time in the regular season, tying Tony Esposito for second-most with a single franchise -- stopped 24 shots against the League's highest-powered attack.
But when it came to the result, the goaltender summed it up succinctly:
"As a team we played really well," he said. "The difference tonight, why they're winning, is their P.K. and Pastrnak."
Pastrnak scored the game-tying goal 4:27 into the third period, extending his NHL-leading total to 24, before drawing all the attention on the ice to himself to allow Krejci to pot the winner, sending Boston to its sixth straight win and a 10-0-4 record on home ice.
"Just really is frustrating," David Quinn said, "and you know what happens when they're feeding off that penalty kill and we get a little bit demoralized by our power play. We've had a pretty good power play throughout the season and to not take advantage of the opportunities we had is really frustrating."
The official number, anyway, was 0-for-6, although Buchnevich's goal 14:14 into the game came just as one of them had expired, with Sean Kuraly racing from the penalty box into the play. It came off a feed into the slot from Tony DeAngelo, who now has points in three straight games and leads all Ranger defensemen with 19 this season.
Chytil doubled the lead 6:21 into the second, his eighth goal in 15 games this season, racing to follow up a 2-on-1 rush between his linemates Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, then drilling the rebound of Strome's shot. Panarin's assist - his read and steal in the neutral zone set the whole play up -- made it 16 out of the last 17 games with a point for the Blueshirts' leading scorer.
Panarin also showed once again what a deceptive and crafty defender he can be, and it was his poke check defending Brad Marchand 1-on-1 that led directly to Kuraly's crosscheck on Adam Fox behind the goal, and 1:02 of 5-on-3 time for the Rangers with just over six minutes to play in the second.
Understanding this was a chance to kill the game, Quinn spent his timeout to give his top unit a breather; it came up empty, and just 1:32 before the Rangers could take their two-goal lead into second intermission, Kuraly scored on a tipped shot off the post and back off of Lundqvist to cut the advantage in half.
"If it's 3-nothing, if you score on the 5-on-3, the whole game changes," Quinn said. "Those guys had just been out, you want to get them some rest, kind of walk through what we've talked about doing on 5-on-3s. We just didn't execute."
After that, Lundqvist said of the Bruins, "It's almost like a different team out there in the third." Pastrnak's tying goal came just moments after Brady Skjei had caught him from behind to lift his stick and thwart a rare breakaway in this game; from there, he drifted to the left circle and was perfectly positioned to drive home the rebound of Krejci's shot.
With the score tied, Par Lindholm's stick into Brendan Smith's cheek resulted in a double minor with 7:02 to play, but once the Rangers couldn't convert it and the 3-on-3 arrived, Pastrnak made two Rangers plus Lundqvist defend him on a net drive, then wheeled it back for Krejci to shoot at an open net.
"For me, I just have to respect that (Pastrnak) can shoot it anywhere, and when he's dragging and dragging I follow him, and then when he puts it right back, the guy's almost behind me," Lundqvist said. "It happens quickly and the game is over."
And the next one starts almost immediately. The Rangers traveled home just after this game ended to rest up for a second straight matinee, against a Devils team that won on Thanksgiving, then had Friday off.
"Overall," Lundqvist said before the Rangers left Boston, "it was a really strong team game for us. A lot of good things we can bring with us for tomorrow's game."