BOSTON - After the second period Sunday, a period that Rangers coach John Tortorella and his players considered their best of the playoffs, the wheels fell off.
In a near-replica of the winning goal in overtime in Game 1 Thursday night, Brad Marchand swept to the net behind Dan Girardi and scored on a centering pass from Patrice Bergeron 26 seconds into the third period. That gave the Bruins a two-goal lead en route to a 5-2 win and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Rangers outshot the Bruins 16-9 in that second period, but Boston outscored them 2-1, including a goal with 7:52 left that snapped a 2-2 tie. Nevertheless, the Rangers felt they "were controlling the pace," said Ryan Callahan, who had tied the score at 1 in the first period on a breakaway. "They get a quick one in the third and it deflates you a bit. That's hard to come back from."
Girardi, who was on ice for all five goals, took the blame on the game-changing goal by Marchand at the start of the third. "I have to be either on the strong side blocking that or on Marchand's stick,'' he said. "That really put us behind the eight-ball."
The cracks showed throughout the game, though. Michael Del Zotto was on the ice for four goals and the Rangers continued to misfire on the power play, which was 0-for-4 and is 2-for-36 in the playoffs.
"It seemed like when we made a mistake or had a breakdown, it ended up in the back of our net, and when they did, we couldn't finish," said Rick Nash, who scored his first goal of this year's playoffs at 8:28 of the second to tie it at 2. "We can't be giving them that many chances on goal."
Tortorella called the Bruins' third goal -- on a four-on-four, Marchand skated into the Rangers' zone and dropped a pass to defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who beat a screened Henrik Lundqvist with a high wrister at 12:08 -- and fourth goal "defendable. We made coverage mistakes . . . We felt really good going into the third, and to have that type of goal go in, on just a two-on-two, it hurts you. And then they're going to fill the middle and jam you, and we couldn't generate much more."
Lundqvist, who last gave up five goals in the playoffs on April 26, 2009, against the Capitals, said: "It didn't feel like they had to work really hard to get a couple of goals . . . We gave it to them. I felt I was in position, but a couple screens -- and when you give up five goals, you can't be satisfied, obviously. But you've got to look at the way they scored the goals, too. It's about teamwork out there, and today it didn't really work for us in our own end . . . I have to be better, and the guys in front of me have to step it up in the next game."
Game 3 is Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are in the same position as they were against the Capitals in the first round, down 2-0 and going home. The Rangers won all three of their home games in that series.
"We've done it before," said Lundqvist, who made 27 saves to Tuukka Rask's 35. "But I think we're playing a better team now. It's going to be tougher to do it. They're a solid team and you can't give them too much. They pay attention to all the details. That's why they've been successful so far. But I'm confident and going to go home and try to play strong in the next one."
The Bruins are far from convinced that the series is over, although they clearly are in the driver's seat. "He's a great goalie," Marchand said. "We're happy with how it went tonight, but we know not every game is going to be like that. We know the next few games, we're going to have to battle hard to get any goals on him."