NEW YORK – Christopher Higgins’ tiebreaking goal with 1:29 left rescued the New York Rangers, lifting them to a 3-2 victory over Boston after the Bruins scored twice late in the third period Monday night.
The Rangers appeared to be cruising to just their second win in 10 home games when Boston struck for two goals 1:26 apart. New York escaped when Higgins sneaked his fifth of the season past goalie Tuukka Rask.
Boston trailed 2-0 when defending Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara went to the penalty box with 6:32 left and gave the Rangers their fifth power play. Instead of putting the game away, the Rangers let the Bruins back in it.
Defenceman Matt Hunwick cut the deficit to 2-1 by scoring a short-handed goal with 5:27 remaining, then assisted on Blake Wheeler’s shot over goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s glove that tied it at 15:59.
Higgins was the third unlikely scorer for the Rangers. Erik Christensen connected for the second time in three games and Ales Kotalik added his first goal in two months.
Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron left the game after being hit near the right wrist by a teammate’s slapshot early in the second period. There was no immediate word on his condition.
Bergeron was named to Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team on Wednesday. He has 11 goals and 20 assists in 40 games this season.
Providing the secondary scoring coach John Tortorella said the Rangers desperately needed after New York lost 2-1 in overtime Saturday to Carolina, Higgins, Christensen and Kotalik took pressure off top forward Marian Gaborik. Entering Monday, Gaborik had scored 25 per cent of the Rangers’ goals.
Kotalik’s power-play tally in the first period gave New York the lead, and Christensen doubled it in the second.
Lundqvist finished with 26 saves. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of 15 games and shows no signs of tiring despite 16 straight starts.
Rask, subbing for U.S. Olympian Tim Thomas, stopped 32 shots. He beat the Rangers 1-0 last season in his only game with Boston. The Bruins played for the first time since their Winter Classic victory Friday over Philadelphia in Fenway Park and lost for the second time in seven games.
Boston is tied for the third-fewest goals in the NHL (107).
When Christensen scored 7:34 into the second period, the Rangers had their first two-goal lead in five games. What made it rarer was that it came against the Bruins.
Two of the three previous meetings between the clubs, and four of eight, were decided by 1-0 scores – with each team winning twice. New York earned a 1-0 victory at Boston on Nov. 1 in the only other game this season matching the Original Six rivals.
Since being moved up to the top line alongside Brandon Dubinsky and Gaborik two games earlier, Christensen has scored twice and added two assists – his only points in 20 contests this season.
He wasn’t the only Rangers forward enjoying long-awaited success. Kotalik broke out of his offensive funk with his first goal in 22 games.
New York’s power play has struggled lately, connecting only twice in 23 chances before Monday. Those difficulties continued in the first period when the Rangers failed on their first two opportunities. But on the second half of a 5-on-3 advantage, Kotalik fired a shot from the left point that sailed past Rask to make it 1-0 at 9:58.
NOTES: Bergeron played four shifts, totalling 1:51 in the second. … Kotalik, who has seven goals this season, hadn’t scored since Nov. 5 at Edmonton. … Rask has three shutouts in 22 NHL games. … Lundqvist was hit in the head by the forearm of Boston C Marc Savard in the second period. No penalty was called.