After the Rangers slipped to the brink of elimination Tuesday with a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Garden, a win that gave the Bruins a commanding 3-0 in the series, the talk was about bounces.
But the bounces weren't the major element in the loss, which could lead to the first playoff sweep of the Rangers since the Devils dumped the Blueshirts in 2006. Game 4 is Thursday night at the Garden.
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The Rangers were dominated from the midway point of the second period, after they took a 1-0 lead on Taylor Pyatt's deflection of Ryan McDonagh's shot past a screened Tuukka Rask. The Bruins grabbed the momentum, fired 11 consecutive shots on Henrik Lundqvist in the second and dominated the third, getting out of their zone easily and penning the Rangers in.
"At times we struggled to get through and when we got through, we just didn't sustain our forecheck," coach John Tortorella said. "A team that is rolling their lines like they are, we need to have some time in their end zone. As the game went on, we were there less and less. So it pops up on you."
After Johnny Boychuk tied the game with his fourth of the playoffs on a long wrister through a maze at 3:10 of the third period -- the 11th goal of the playoffs for the Bruins defense -- the puck popped up and sent the Rangers down.
Greg Campbell's shot was deflected high and behind Lundqvist by Shawn Thornton. The puck spun out off the goal line, and Daniel Paille slapped in the game winner at 16:39.
"I didn't see it," said Lundqvist, who made 32 saves. "It went straight up and nobody saw it. Then it just landed on his stick and at some point you're going to need some puck luck, too. It's that close. You can't see all the bounces, but from where I'm standing, every game they've been getting the bounces and our guys are not getting them. I'm not going to blame it all on lucky bounces, but you need it. It's a simple as that and today they got it again."
Tortorella said Paille beat the defensemen, Steve Eminger and Michael Del Zotto, to the post.
Lundqvist made 14 saves in the second period, while the Rangers had just five shots on Rask. The Rangers were 0-for-2 on the power play and are 0-for-10 in the three games.
In the third period, which turned into a grind-it-out session, several players left bloodied. Anton Stralman did not play in the third period, and the Rangers played with five defensemen. At 5:05 of the third, both Tyler Seguin and Chris Kreider were cut on high sticks on the same play, but no penalties were called. Patrice Bergeron also was bloodied by Eminger's hit moments later, and Dan Girardi took a puck in the mouth.
Although the Rangers outshot the Bruins 11-9 in the first period, Boston had the better chances and Lundqvist made some huge saves. He stopped Chris Kelley's breakaway backhander at 8:10 when Zdeno Chara poked the puck away from Rick Nash on a 4-on-4 with Derek Dorsett (roughing) and Brad Marchand (cross-checking) in the box. Then Lundqvist stoned Seguin on another breakaway at 11:17 when Girardi whiffed on the puck along the mid-ice boards.
"You can't look at it that we have to win four games," Lundqvist said. "You have to focus on the next one. Season's on the line, so you have to leave everything out there. Preparation and the effort has to be there and see if it's going to be enough."