By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
In this round, the Rangers face a two-headed monster.
So John Tortorella split the defence pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi that held Alex Ovechkin to one goal in seven games, the Rangers coach feeling he could get a good matchup whatever way Boston's Claude Julien wanted to play it.
Whether it wound up with Girardi and Michael Del Zotto against Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Jaromir Jagr; or McDonagh and Anton Stralman versus Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci, or vice versa, the Rangers coach could get a good night's sleep, at least until his team dozed off as it entered overtime tied 2-2 in Game 1.
Nevertheless, after eight Bruins shots on the only power play of sudden death -- which brought the total of crossbars and posts hit by Boston to four for the game -- the Rangers still were doing what they do so well: Hanging in there with goalie Henrik Lundqvist. They did not succumb until the game came down to one little matchup, and we don't mean that figuratively, either.
When McDonagh got caught on a pinch, and the Bruins -- thanks to a quick stick by defenceman Zdeno Chara -- countered with Bergeron carrying wide and Marchand hustling up the slot, it was the five-foot-nine, 187-pound Marchand in a race against the five-foot-seven, 179-pound Mats Zuccarello.
Marchand was against the only guy in the rink over whom he had a physical advantage. And the Rangers' luck had run out. Marchand shrugged off Zuccarello like Mickey Rooney in a back-alley brawl with Tom Thumb and went to the net to take Bergeron's pass that just barely beat the stick of Stralman.
At 15:40 of overtime
, the puck, redirected through Lundqvist's legs, went into the net, followed by Zuccarello. It was quite the ending of a day for Marchand that began with him leaving the morning skate hunched over in some kind of pain that proved temporary. Nothing like what Zuccarello suffered at the end of the long night.
"I was trying to come across and I got bumped a little," he said. "I don't actually remember, just know he got ahead of me.
"I was working hard as I can but I couldn't take him. I'm disappointed with myself."
Lundqvist, a 3-2 Game 1 loser
who is now 3-11 in playoff sudden deaths and 0-3 this season, similarly beat himself up until he beat up his teammates for failing to score.
"I thought I made a bad decision, making a stretch instead of coming with my pads together," said the goalie. "It's a tough play but I could have played it better.
"It was a tough overtime for us. When you face a lot of chances like that, sooner or later you make a mistake. My [overtime record] is frustrating but I can't score goals. I thought I played a pretty solid game."
He did and he didn't.
In the overtime where the Rangers were outshot 16-5 Lundqvist was outstanding, but he boxed a Chara flutterball and the goalie ended up putting in the puck himself on the first Boston goal.
Lundqvist also got beaten from the point, albeit through a semi-screen, by Torey Krug soon after the Rangers had scored twice in 16 seconds bridging the second intermission to take a 2-1 lead.
Tortorella's team of masochists needed almost 16 extra minutes to block 29 shots, below their usual welt count. Even before the overtime, it still was a little too wide open for the Rangers to expect to handle the Bruins over seven games.
This is not to suggest this is a bad speed mismatch. New York forward Derek Stepan whipped Boston goalie Tukka Rask from straight up the slot with a quick release off a counter, and the still goalless-for-the playoffs Rick Nash made like the Acela in carrying the puck around the net, then forcing a Tyler Seguin giveaway that Ryan McDonagh slapped past Rask with two seconds left in the first period.
But the Rangers largely are better closing off space than opening it up. And ominously for them, the Boston power play, almost as sickly as the Rangers' during the first round, had good puck movement in going 1-for-5 in Game 1 while New York stayed on the periphery in going 0-for-3.
Even better from the Bruins' standpoint, the three kid defencemen they are using in the absence of Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden held up well. Krug scored a power-play goal set up by Dougie Hamilton. And even if Matt Bartkowski wound up minus-two, none of the three was a defensive liability.
"I don't think any of them lack confidence," said Julien. "And I thought that was Marchand's best game of the playoffs."
He bought the Bruins a 1-0 lead and days to heal without having to rush anybody back. The Rangers will use the two off days before Game 2 to tell themselves they can play a lot better, which last round they proved last round they can.
They did a lot of little things to outlast Washington, and were one break away from stealing Game 1 from Boston. But Marchand came up bigger than Zuccarello and that was all she wrote.
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