A flurry of offense in the third period spurred the New York Rangers to a close, 5-4, win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Keith Kinkaid (3-2-1, 2.59 goals-against average, .898 save percentage in nine games played) made 28 saves on 30 shots faced prior to being replaced by Igor Shesterkin (16-14-3, 2.62 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 35 games played) for the win due to an injury in the third period.
Shesterkin made seven saves on nine shots in relief of Kinkaid in a little over eleven minutes of action on Saturday.
Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (14-5-2, 2.29 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 23 games played) made 18 saves on 23 shots against in the loss.
The Bruins fell to 32-15-7 (71 points) on the season, but remain in command of 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division standings, while the Rangers finished their 2020-21 season with a 27-23-6 record, 60 points and 5th place in the same division.
The B’s finished their regular season series against New York with a 5-3-0 record in their eight matchups.
The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Charlie Coyle (upper body) on Saturday, though Kase returned to practice with the rest of the team on Friday and Coyle remains “day-to-day” according to head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Cassidy also mentioned that the B’s are taking it “one step at a time” regarding Kase’s return to the lineup in the remaining pair of games in the regular season.
Cassidy kept his forward lines from Thursday intact, while technically jumbling the defensive pairings from puck drop Thursday to puck drop Saturday despite actually putting them together during Thursday night’s, 4-0, shutout win against New York.
As such, Matt Grzelcyk was paired with Charlie McAvoy from the start of the action on the first pairing, while Mike Reilly was partnered with Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon suited up with Kevan Miller.
Jeremy Swayman served as Rask’s backup on Saturday in what was expected to be Rask’s final start before the postseason, while Jaroslav Halak was given the afternoon off in the press box.
Halak joined Coyle, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Moore, Kase, Steven Kampfer, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Jarred Tinordi on Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday.
On Monday, TD Garden will increase their limited seating capacity from 12% to 25% in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening plans– just in time for the final home game of the regular season, as well as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Grzelcyk cut a rut to the penalty box for holding and presented the Rangers with the first power play of the afternoon at 11:54 of the first period.
New York failed to convert on the power play, however.
Late in the period, Morgan Barron caught Taylor Hall with an errant knee– bringing the Bruins winger down with a trip and earning a minor infraction in the process at 19:32.
Boston’s power play spilled over into the middle frame, however, as the B’s couldn’t get anything going on the skater advantage as the horn signaled the start of the first intermission.
After 20 minutes of action on Saturday afternoon, the two clubs were even on the scoreboard, 0-0, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 9-7.
The Rangers dominated in blocked shots (10-1), giveaways (10-2) and hits (9-5), while the Bruins led in takeaways (8-5) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).
Both teams were 0/1 in the power play after the first period.
K’Andre Miller (5) floated a shot past Rask with lots of traffic screening the Bruins netminder in the slot to give the Rangers a, 1-0, lead at 6:21 of the second period off an attacking zone faceoff after Boston iced the puck.
Justin Richards (1) and Filip Chytil (14) tallied the assists on Miller’s goal.
With the primary assist on the goal, Richards picked up his first career National Hockey League point in his NHL debut after amassing 4-7–11 totals in 20 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) this season in his first professional season after spending three years (2017-20) at University Minnesota-Duluth.
Late in the period, Mika Zibanejad hooked David Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with their second power play of the game at 14:04.
Once more, however, Boston was unsuccessful on the skater advantage.
In the waning minutes of the second period, the McAvoy mustered a shot towards the goal that rebounded to this season’s NESN 7th Player Award winner, Nick Ritchie (15) for the garbage goal on the doorstep– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.
McAvoy (24) and Sean Kuraly (6) had the assists on Ritchie’s career-high 15th goal of the season at 18:12 of the second period.
Through two periods of play, the Bruins and Rangers were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston holding an advantage in shots on goal, 28-15, including a, 19-5, advantage in the second period alone.
New York led in blocked shots (17-2) and giveaways (10-5), while Boston led in faceoff win% (54-46).
The two squads had 11 takeaways and 14 hits each, while the Rangers were 0/1 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.
Pastrnak (20) kicked off the third period with a one-timed redirection goal 21 seconds into the final frame for his 200th career NHL goal– giving the B’s their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Brad Marchand (39) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal as No. 88 in black and gold became the fastest player in franchise history to reach the 200-goal plateau in 437 career games (all with Boston)– beating Bobby Orr’s previous mark of 200 goals in 502 games with the club.
About five minutes later, however, Zibanejad (23) answered back with a one-timer goal of his own while the Rangers dominated possession in the attacking zone.
Pavel Buchnevich (26) and Ryan Strome (34) had the assists on Zibanejad’s first goal of the afternoon as New York tied the game, 2-2, at 5:22 of the third period.
A little over two minutes later, Alexis Lafrenière (12) caught a pass, deked and released a backhand shot over Rask’s glove side to put the Rangers ahead, 3-2, on the scoreboard.
Anthony Bitetto (3) and Buchnevich (27) recorded the assists as the Blueshirts scored a pair of goals in a 2:04 span at 7:25 of the third period.
Shortly thereafter, Pastrnak sent a shot wide of the net on a breakaway as Kinkaid challenged the Boston forward and appeared to overextend something as the Rangers goaltender left the game with what looked like a lower body injury.
Shesterkin came in to replace Kinkaid and finished off the game, as well as the rest of the regular season as New York’s goaltender.
Almost midway into the third period, Vitali Kravtsov (2) gave the Rangers a two-goal lead with another one-timer off of an attacking zone faceoff after Lafrenière and Buchnevich generated momentum for New York having just blown past Boston defenders, McAvoy and Grzelcyk prior to the whistle.
Strome (35) and Zac Jones (4) had the assists on Kravtsov’s goal and the Rangers led, 4-2, at 9:36.
The only penalty in the third period occurred when Bitetto got a hold on Hall at 13:17, yielding another power play to the Bruins.
Boston’s power play made decent work of the ensuing skater advantage as Marchand batted a puck out of mid-air to keep the rubber biscuit in the offensive zone before a give-and-go with David Krejci, which led to Marchand (28) sliding the puck under Shesterkin’s pad on a backhand goal.
Krejci (33) had the only assist on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 4-3, at 14:08.
Once again, however, Zibanejad (24) answered with his 200th career goal– sniping the puck over Rask’s glove on a catch and release shot to put the Rangers ahead by two-goals once more.
Buchnevich (28) tallied his third assist of the afternoon on Zibanejad’s second goal as New York pulled ahead, 5-3, at 18:07.
With time ticking down, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 1:31 remaining in regulation before Patrice Bergeron (23) redirected a shot pass from the bumper in his usual spot to pull Boston to within one.
Grzelcyk (15) and McAvoy (25) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins trailed, 5-4, at 18:39.
Rask vacated the crease once more with about 1:15 left in the action, but this time the B’s couldn’t muster another goal with the netminder pulled.
At the final horn the Rangers had won, 5-4, and sealed the deal on the victory in their final game of the pandemic truncated 56-game 2020-21 regular season.
Though Boston finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 39-23, both teams had 11 shots apiece in the third period alone.
New York finished Saturday’s effort with the advantage in blocked shots (19-4), giveaways (14-9) and hits (17-16), while the Bruins wrapped up the afternoon leading in faceoff win% (52-48).
The Rangers went 0/1 and the B’s went 1/3 on the power play on Saturday.
The Bruins fell to 8-7-2 (3-4-2 at home) when tied after the first period, 8-10-4 (5-7-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal and 5-7-3 (0-2-1 at home) when tied after two periods this season.
Meanwhile, New York finished 5-6-1 (3-2-1 on the road) when tied after one period, 21-7-2 (10-6-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal and 5-5-3 (3-1-1 on the road) when tied after the second period in 2020-21.
The Bruins take on the New York Islanders in their final home game of the regular season on Monday before hitting the road for their last game of the 2020-21 regular season against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.