This game was exactly what one would expect from the top two teams in the East.
And it was the Rangers who emerged from the heavyweight, high-octane battle with a big-time 7-4 win over the Bruins Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, which lifted the club into first place in the NHL in points percentage.
Forget the Big Bad Bruins.
These are the Big Bad Blueshirts.
Perched on an 11-point lead in the Metropolitan Division, which is a larger differential than between the second-place Capitals and the last-place Blue Jackets, the Rangers have put the NHL on notice.
For all the arguments that can and have been made about the difficulty – or lack thereof – in the Rangers’ schedule 18 games into the season, there is no disputing what unfolded in Game No. 19 against a defensively-sound Boston team.
Hanging a season-high seven goals on Boston goalie Linus Ullmark, whose .932 save percentage entering Saturday’s game was only rivaled by the man on the other side of the ice in Jonathan Quick, the Rangers proved just how for real they are this season.
Thirteen different Rangers recorded a point. Quick, who is supposed to be viewed as a backup, improved to 6-0-1 and is still undefeated in regulation.
If this was a measuring-stick victory, it’s the Rangers who will be holding the measuring tape from now on.
The first period was an early indication of how eventful this matchup was going to be.
Five total goals were scored and both teams used their lone timeout in an attempt to slow down the other in the opening 20 minutes.
After Nick Bonino scored his first goal as a Ranger, Chris Kreider cleaned up a loose puck that trickled through Ullmark on the power play to double his team’s lead, 2-0.
The Bruins didn’t record their first shot on goal until the 12:35 mark, but once they did, the visitors bulldozed right back into the game.
Charlie Coyle cut the Rangers’ lead in half before Morgan Geekie’s one-timer tied the game at two-all 22 seconds later.
When Erik Gustafsson was called for hooking later in the first period, however, the Bruins were in prime position to snag their first lead of the game.
Instead, Kreider took a stellar stretch pass from Jacob Trouba and converted on a breakaway for his second shorthanded goal of the season and a 3-2 Rangers lead.
It was the fourth time Kreider scored a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game in his career.
The Bruins played to their pesky ways and never quite let the Rangers get comfortable no matter the score. David Pastrnak went five-hole on Quick at the very end of Boston’s power play to tie the game up a second time just 26 seconds into the second period.
Two goals from the fourth line, which sandwiched K’Andre Miller’s missile one-timer at the tail end of the second period, gave the Rangers a formidable 6-3 lead less than a minute and a half into the final frame.
While Coyle netted his second of the game less than a minute after Pitlick’s first goal as a Ranger, Artemi Panarin snapped a three-game scoreless streak – which is a long time considering how this season has gone for the Russian wing – to put the Rangers back up by three.