NEW YORK, N.Y. – Tuukka Rask had his busiest game of the season, just how he likes it.
Rask, playing on a second straight night, stopped all but one of the season-high 44 shots the Boston Bruins allowed and lifted his club to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Rask gave up just a rare power-play goal to Derick Brassard in the second period, but made the offence provided by Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille stand up as the Bruins earned their sixth win in seven games.
“The first two (periods), we were really playing with fire,” Rask said of the 33-13 shots edge the Rangers had through 40 minutes. “We gave them a lot of opportunities, but then in the third we fixed that.
“I usually feel better the second night, but I don’t think you need that many shots every time you play the back to backs.”
The Rangers put extra heat on the Bruins, who played most of the game with only five defencemen after Dennis Seidenberg was injured early in the first.
Rask was up to the task, and he set the tone when he stopped Chris Kreider’s penalty shot.
“I don’t know if it was any momentum changer,” Rask said. “They had four or five breakaways. It obviously helps, and we kind of felt like we survived that first period being 0-0, so maybe it had something to do with it.”
Kreider recorded four shots in the game to earn Third Star honours. All he had to show for it was an assist on Brassard’s goal.
“I have to give him a lot of credit. He had a great game, and he is a great goaltender,” the 22-year-old Kreider said of Rask. “I am confident in my ability to shoot a hockey puck. When I hit my spot, it tends to go in.
“When your linemates are giving you opportunities and helping you get chances, you need to finish. You need to reward them.”
The Bruins (14-6-1) finished a 2-1 road trip, after winning at Carolina on Monday, and spoiled the return to the Rangers lineup of star forward Rick Nash.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 20 shots, but most of the action was at the other end. The Rangers have only two goals in three games, splitting a pair of 1-0 decisions in the previous two. New York has dropped three in a row at home.
Lundqvist has held opponents to two goals or fewer in nine of his 15 starts, but he is only 6-9 overall and 4-5 at home.
The Rangers had won 11 of 15 against the Bruins, who knocked them out of last season’s playoffs. The teams have played one-goal games in 20 of the past 25 meetings.
“It’s tough,” Lundqvist said. “We have to accept that a lot of games are going to be low-scoring. I just have to try to cut down one goal, but I feel like I’m doing the right things.”
Rask was still sharp in the third period when the Bruins killed a cross-checking penalty against Brad Marchand, who shoved Mats Zuccarello from behind into the boards in front of the Rangers bench.
Nash skated well and had several scoring chances in his return from a 17-game absence caused by a concussion sustained in New York’s third game of the season on Oct. 8.
He finished with five shots on goal.
“It was disappointing we couldn’t finish, but chances were definitely there,” Nash said. “We didn’t outwork their goalie enough to score.”
The Bruins recorded only seven shots in the second period—compared to 17 for the Rangers—but cashed in on two to take a 2-0 lead. Thornton broke the seal on the scoreless game at 4:58 when he sent a rising wrist shot over Lundqvist’s glove for his third goal.
The Rangers (10-11) got a chance to get even a few minutes later when they went on their second power play against the vaunted Bruins’ penalty killers, successful in 33 consecutive short-handed situations. Not only did Boston hold New York at bay, Paille gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Ryan McDonagh tried to get the puck to Ryan Callahan just inside the Boston zone at the right point, but Paille broke up the pass and headed the other way alone, with Callahan chasing. Paille moved to his backhand and beat Lundqvist between the pads for a short-handed goal at 11:30.
New York got that one back with only a couple of seconds remaining on the power play when Brassard sent a floating wrist shot from the left circle into the top far corner at 12:31 for his fourth goal, ending Boston’s streak.
The early lead was enough as the Bruins improved to 101-6-6 in games in which they held a two-goal edge, including 11-0-2 this season, dating to the 2010-11 campaign.
Nash saw early action and took part on the first power-play unit after big Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara was called for high-sticking Zuccarello at 4:23. Nash had a prime scoring chance in the closing minutes of the first period when he came in on Rask for a partial breakaway, but was denied.
“I felt OK,” Nash said. “The timing and the speed, that will come. The first couple of shifts, it was tough, but I found (my game) and found some chances.”
NOTES: Bruins C Patrice Bergeron played in his 600th NHL game, all with Boston. … The Bruins hadn’t allowed a power-play goal since Oct. 30 at Pittsburgh. … J.T. Miller was scratched to make room for Nash. D Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.