After a surprisingly lopsided victory over Boston on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, Rangers coach David Quinn knew the Bruins would be laser-focused and highly motivated when the teams met again Sunday.
He was right.
Charlie Coyle scored two goals and Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy had a goal and an assist as the Bruins avenged Friday’s loss with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Rangers (7-9-3) before 1,800 fans at the Garden.
Trent Frederic had the other goal for the Bruins (12-5-2), who had lost two in a row and four of their last five.
"Completely different games,’’ Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith said when asked why this game looked so different from the Rangers’ 6-2 victory on Friday.
"They came out playing pretty hard, they defended really well,’’ Smith said. "You’ve got to tip your hat to how they played, but I don’t think we got inside enough and made enough plays. We didn’t have enough offensive scoring opportunities.
"We have to be a little bit more grittier and get to those tough areas. We didn’t do enough of that tonight.’’
The Rangers, who pumped six goals past Tuukka Rask on Friday, hardly threatened him on Sunday. They trailed 3-0 before Colin Blackwell scored his fifth goal of the season at 10:47 of the third period.
"When teams try to come with a barrage of an effort like that, and they might have five minutes where they’re swarming,’’ Blackwell said, "we’re just trying to weather the storm and, you know, then play our hockey . . .
"And it’s one of those things where you’re not going to be able to, every single night, play 60 minutes [of] beautiful hockey . . . We’ve got to pack it in tight and play from the inside out.’’
An unsportsmanlike-conduct minor penalty to Boston forward Craig Smith gave the Rangers a power play with 3:51 left, and Quinn pulled goalie Alexandar Georgiev to give the Rangers a six-on-four advantage. Coyle scored into the empty net with 1:55 left to make it 4-1.
Georgiev was forced to leave the game after the Bruins’ opening goal in the first period so he could go through the NHL’s concussion protocol, but he returned for the final two periods and played well, stopping 31 of 33 shots.
He left the game at 6:41 of the first period after Coyle beat him with a precise shot from the left wing over his left shoulder to make it 1-0. That occurred 53 seconds after Boston forward Nick Ritchie fell on top of Georgiev in a goalmouth scramble, driving the goalie’s head into the ice.
Georgiev came up after that incident with blood dripping from his eye, but he stayed in the game after being tended to by trainer Jim Ramsay.
Igor Shesterkin entered the game when Georgiev left and played the remainder of the first period. He faced two shots, allowing Frederic’s tip-in goal that made it 2-0 at 18:14.
"I liked our first period, and I thought the backbreaker was their second goal,’’ Quinn said. "I thought that really took the wind out of our sails.
"I thought the second half of the first period, we started coming and doing some of the things that we were going to need to do. And I thought we withstood their push early. And then after that, they were just a better team. They really were.’’