Boston Bruins

May 8, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) smiles at teammates after scoring against the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It took 38 minutes and 12 seconds, but the Bruins’ fortunes certainly changed once they were able to crack through the brick wall known as Rangers third-string netminder Keith Kinkaid.

Starting with Nick Ritchie’s game-tying tally to tie things up, the Bruins jumped out front for the first time in this Saturday affair at TD Garden on their first shot of the third period off the stick of David Pastrnak for his 200th career goal. It seemed like the perfect opening the Bruins needed to officially choke out the Rangers and lock themselves into no worse than the No. 3 seed in the East bracket.

But then the Bruins went through what can only be described as a complete meltdown in the defensive zone and in their crease, as the Black and Gold surrendered four goals over a 12:45 stretch in the final frame to fall to the Rangers by a 5-4 final at TD Garden.

“I don’t know if we just assumed it would be easy,” a frustrated Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “It’s just perplexing how it all happened at once. Just a lot of things that we don’t typically do.”

Among the issues Cassidy saw with his team in this one?

He simply didn’t understand how his team went from playing five straight dominant periods against this team to playing “uncharacteristically poor” from the blue line in once the puck dropped on the third period. He was critical of Tuukka Rask (five goals on 23 shots faced) not bailing his team out in the third period. But as you’d expect, he didn’t want to absolve his defense of the blame for their miscues. Cassidy lamented how his team wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices to win (the Bruins had just four blocked shots), how they surrendered too many odd-man rushes, and how they were not picking up their man in the defensive zone.

He was especially critical of Mike Reilly’s bizarre rimming breakout attempt — and under no pressure — that caused a needless turnover for New York’s fifth and final goal of the night. Cassidy went as far to say that it’s not a play Reilly makes and it’s a play he had not seen Reilly attempt that play since coming to Boston, and admitted that he had no idea why he tried that, and wondered if it was related to fatigue or focus. (It probably didn’t help that Reilly capped his terrible, horrible, no good shift with a moving screen on Rask.)

None of Cassidy’s critiques were uncalled for. Rask did save the B’s butts on more than a few odd-man rushes, but his best save of the night was by all means canceled out by the goal surrendered on the very next sequence. The Boston defense also left their goaltender out to dry searching for the offense at the other end,  and as noted by Cassidy, failed to get back on anything even remotely close to an acceptable level or provide proper support in the third period of a one-goal contest.

It was just an absolute mess, and the Rangers got more confident with each defensive-zone fumble by Boston.

“They were making plays and they burned us,” said Ritchie. “We got sloppy.”

“I’d have preferred we closed it out the way we should have,” said Cassidy. “Now we’re going to correct mode again. It’s not a constant barrage of poor defensive play, it was 20 minutes. But it will need to be addressed and corrected or you’re not going anywhere if that’s the best you defend in front of your net.”

But the loss was enough to set the Bruins up for a potentially interesting — though needlessly interesting, I should most certainly add — finish to their regular season.

By failing to take care of business Saturday, the Bruins failed to lock up a top three spot in the East, and could actually fall into the fourth-seed and draw the East’s best in round one should the Islanders win in Jersey and then beat the Bruins on Monday. If that happens, the Bruins would then need to win their regular season finale on Tuesday against the Capitals to remain in third. (In essence, the Islanders winning their final two games of their season and the Bruins losing the final two games of their season would see these teams flip.)

The Bruins will host that potentially significant head-to-head with the Isles at TD Garden on Monday.


Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.