Vintage jerseys, vintage clubs, vintage rivalry turned vintage hatred. The Bruins and Rangers took a page out of their past yesterday at the FleetCenter, racking up 81 minutes in penalties -- 40 from fighting majors -- and it was Boston that came out on top by a 5-2 score.
The contest, which set up a rematch tonight at Madison Square Garden, was chock-full of subplots: brilliant goaltending by Boston's Andrew Raycroft, the Bruin debut of defenseman Jiri Slegr, the end of scoring slumps for right wing Glen Murray and center Brian Rolston, and on a negative note for the Bruins, the loss of captain Joe Thornton to a fractured cheekbone and the loss of defenseman Dan McGillis to a match penalty (for intent to injure) in the second period.
It was the Bruins' seventh win in nine games (7-1-1-0).
Thornton got the ball rolling with a goal on the Boston power play (now 5 for its last 27) at 2:03 of the first. Rolston potted his first goal in 16 games at 5:14 to make it 2-0, and it was a beauty. Taking advantage of the Rangers' propensity to give up odd-man rushes, defenseman Nick Boynton fired a long lead pass to Rolston sprinting up center ice. Rolston drove down the slot, froze goalie Mike Dunham, and beat him inside the right post for his 13th of the year.
Boston made it a three-goal lead on Murray's 13th, at 2:27 of the second. Murray's wife, Katie, who was trying ways to change her husband's luck, brought their infant son, Parker, to the game hoping he'd provide some inspiration. It didn't hurt.
Murray, without a goal in 10 games, took a pass from left wing Sergei Samsonov (one goal, two assists) and snapped a shot over the glove of Dunham from the right circle. He said it was a huge relief.
"He's got to come every game now," said Murray. "I've had a lot of chances through this little lull, this big lull. The thing is, you've got to try to stay positive and stay confident, that you know you can still do it.
"When you're not helping the team and not scoring, you put added pressure on yourself, but that's part of the game. That's professional sports. You're supposed to put pressure on yourself to play well and maybe I was just doing it too much."
All hell broke loose later in the period when Thornton and Rangers center Eric Lindros squared off in a fight at 6:43, prompted by a stick-swinging incident after a faceoff. Thornton was forced to leave the game and went to Massachusetts General Hospital, where X-rays showed a small fracture.
At 8:01, forward Doug Doull was tossed for charging Rangers center Petr Nedved, earning him a five-minute major and game misconduct. In the melee that followed, Rangers defenseman Vladimir Malakhov was given two minutes for roughing. At 9:12, the Bruins lost McGillis when he was called for a match penalty and game misconduct for kneeing Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, who suffered a sprained left knee. That set up a four-on-three for New York that lasted 49 seconds followed by a five-on-three for three full minutes.
The Rangers generated six shots on the ensuing power play but the Bruins killed it off. Raycroft made some stellar saves, one on Mark Messier, another on Alexei Kovalev, and in the late going on Malakhov.
"It was obviously kind of crazy but we did an outstanding job," said Raycroft. "To have a five-on-three with those guys, that's impressive. Give credit to the penalty killers, they blocked eight or nine shots at least and that's what you have to do, but they kind of went above the call of duty."
Rolston, who logged 5:05 of his total 20:56 of ice time on the penalty kill, said Raycroft was the reason they didn't let anything in.
"I always say penalty killing is 60 percent goaltending," said Rolston. "Razor made some unbelievable saves. He just made some sick, sick saves and that was the key to our penalty kill. When you have a five-on-three, you're going to give up shots, and he was there to make the saves."
Chris Simon pulled the Rangers within 3-1 when he scored at 14:39 of the second, but Samsonov's goal at 16:45 pretty well put it out of reach. Slegr potted his first as a Bruin (third of the year) at 9:47 of the third, and Lindros accounted for the final score when he tallied at 10:50.
The sequel bears watching tonight.
"I'm sure it will be an emotional game," said Bruins coach Mike Sullivan. "It's two teams that are fighting for every point they can get. The conference is so close. Every game means something and it makes for exciting hockey."