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Rangers approach game vs. Bruins as litmus test

Nov 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider (4) fights Boston Bruins left wing A.J. Greer (10) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Rangers allowed four goals in the third period of 5-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 3, it started a slump that contributed to their middling start.

By now, the Rangers have recovered from their underwhelming start and are curious to see how they measure up against the NHL’s top team when they host the Bruins on Thursday night.

The Rangers entered the first meeting with a 6-3-2 record and hung with the Bruins for 40 minutes before allowing goals to Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic and Jake DeBrusk in the opening 10:19 of the third along with an empty-net goal to Hampus Lindholm in the final minute.

The difficult third period started a 5-7-3 slide that culminated in a 5-2 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3. Since then, the Rangers are 14-3-2 — including a 7-2-0 mark at home highlighted by wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, who entered those games on points streaks of 15 and 17 games, respectively.

“Obviously, they’re the class of the league right now,” New York center Barclay Goodrow said of the Bruins. “They’re setting the tone throughout the league right now, so it’s going to be a great test for us.

“It’s a game we want to play. We want to give them a good test and see where we stack up. Those are the games you get excited for. And it’s a good chance to prove ourselves, not only to them, but throughout the rest of the league.”

New York heads into its second meeting of the season with Boston coming off a 3-1 win at Columbus on Monday. Goodrow collected his first career power-play goal while Mika Zibanejad and Vitali Kravtsov also scored as the Rangers got the win a day after losing 2-1 at home to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Rangers played their third straight game without Chris Kreider. The veteran forward sustained an upper-body injury in the third period Jan. 10 against the Minnesota Wild, but he practiced Wednesday and is expected to play Thursday.

“I think I blocked that one out,” Kreider told reporters Wednesday while discussing the first meeting with Boston. “A very, very different point in the season but obviously a very good team coming in.”

The Bruins stood at 10-1-0 after their first visit to Madison Square Garden and have been rolling all season. Boston has won three straight and is 25-4-4 since the first encounter with the Rangers.

Boston has allowed the fewest goals in the league, 92, and has scored 168, one fewer than Edmonton’s league-leading total, though the Bruins have played two fewer games than the Oilers. The most recent team to finish a season with the most goals scored and fewest goals allowed is the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks, who fell in the Stanley Cup Final to the Bruins.

The Bruins have enjoyed two comfortable wins this week. They followed a 6-0 rout of the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Monday by scoring two goals apiece in the second and third periods of a 4-1 win over the host New York Islanders on Wednesday. Charlie McAvoy and Derek Forbort scored in the second before Brad Marchand and Frederic tallied in the third.

“We definitely turned it around the last two periods, played really well and started getting back to our game plan and transitioning fast,” Marchand said.

Boston’s latest win also occurred while Patrice Bergeron took a puck in the face and returned to finish the game with blood on his cheek shortly before Marchand scored his power-play goal.

–Field Level Media