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Rangers 5, Bruins 3

Bruins get cute, take ugly loss vs. Rangers

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 5, 2011

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NEW YORK — In the big picture, when the Bruins kick off the playoffs next week on home ice, last night’s 5-3 embarrassment will be just another loss. It is suggested, however, that the Bruins examine the ugly game tape very closely to remind themselves exactly what not to do when the matches mean just a little more.

Then light the tape on fire.

What was once a Black-and-Gold 3-0 blowout imploded into a head-shaker. The Bruins folded in just about every part of the game — up front, on defense, and in goal. Just about all hands, save for Daniel Paille and a rugged fourth line, were on deck for the kind of collapse Bruins fans know far too well.

“When we took that 3-0 lead, all of a sudden guys went back and started to get cute again,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Not doing the simple things. That’s what usually happens. At this stage of the season, you hope it’s a real good lesson that we learned tonight. If you don’t want to respect the game plan for 60 minutes, those things are going to happen.’’

It is a teaching tool that Julien will be sure to have in his holster for quite some time. Not just for today’s practice. But for the rest of the regular season and the duration of the playoffs.

For the first half of the game, the Bruins laid a licking on the legless Rangers, who were coming off a 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia the previous afternoon. After 20 minutes, the Bruins held a 19-5 shot advantage.

But in the end, when the Rangers should have run their tank dry, they were the ones celebrating a five-goal rally. Pucks didn’t go deep. Defensemen ran around.

“Instead of playing the type of game we were supposed to play for 60 minutes, we stopped playing,’’ Julien said. “We decided to get cute. When you get cute, that’s what happens. For me, it’s a disappointing loss. But you certainly hope that your players walk out of here learning something about this.’’

For half the night, the Bruins played the perfect road game. They took a 1-0 lead when Paille outmuscled his opponents at the top of the crease and tapped in a Johnny Boychuk feed at 15:16 of the first. The Bruins doubled their lead later in the first after some more dirty work in the painful area. Henrik Lundqvist got in front of David Krejci’s initial shot. But Nathan Horton, battling in the high slot, popped in the rebound at 16:53.

At 10:32 of the second, the game appeared to be over. Chris Kelly finished a two-on-one with a wrister through Lundqvist, giving the Bruins a three-goal edge.

Not so fast.

“They totally took over in the second,’’ defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “We didn’t keep doing what we did in the first period. They took over in the second and also in the third. We just didn’t play well enough in our zone, breaking out pucks and moving pucks.’’

A crucial component of the Bruins’ collapsing zone defense is efficiency in front of their net. If anything, the Bruins are almost always thorough in protecting the house. They station at least one defenseman and often another forward in the slot. That way, they cut off cross-crease passes, limit good looks, and keep pucks to the perimeter.

But an Adam McQuaid second-period turnover led to an avalanche of uncharacteristic mistakes. Marc Staal, hugging the left-side wall, leaped to glove down a McQuaid clearing attempt. Instead of allowing a forward to neutralize Staal, McQuaid lunged at the defenseman. Staal made a slick backhand dish to Vinny Prospal, who one-touched a pass to Wojtek Wolski. Tim Thomas came out of his crease and got most of Wolski’s slapper. But the puck dribbled between Thomas’s pads, and Prospal whacked in the rebound at 11:34. Finally, the Rangers had some life.

Prospal scored another goal with 1:34 remaining in the second. The play started when Derek Stepan won a puck battle against Andrew Ference. When Stepan fed Wolski behind the net, McQuaid chased the puck carrier instead of staying at home in front of the cage. With a step on McQuaid, Wolski threw a pass out front to a wide-open Prospal. Bang — 3-2.

The Rangers tied the score at 16:12 of the third. This time, it was Tomas Kaberle scurrying away from the front of the net. With Kaberle out of the picture, Brandon Dubinsky had plenty of time to tuck a backhander behind Thomas to make it 3-3.

From there, it was just a formality until the Rangers pulled ahead. The fourth goal might have been the ugliest — a sharp-angle Michael Sauer shot that trickled between Thomas’s pads and into the net at 17:03. Madison Square Garden, which is undergoing renovations, threatened to buckle from the bellowing.

“I’ve never scored a goal and it got that loud, that’s for sure,’’ Sauer said. “The boys were excited and the fans went nuts.’’

The Rangers completed the teeth-kicking when Stepan tacked on an empty-netter with 53 seconds remaining in regulation.

“I think there were a lot of breakdowns in the third,’’ Julien said. “Our back end and our Ds got caught out of position a lot. A couple of goals there, I’m sure Timmy would want back that went through him tonight. Some breakdowns from a little bit of everywhere. Our back end certainly had a tough time tonight. Up front, we were OK for 30 minutes.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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