NEW YORK — The Rangers were desperate. They had dropped their first two games. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled against Pittsburgh Monday.
Just three matches into the 48-game season, Rangers coach John Tortorella made a desperate call by putting his top three guns together: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash. The move worked.
Twenty-seven seconds into overtime Wednesday night, Gaborik capped a hat trick by batting a mid-air puck past Tuukka Rask to give the Rangers a 4-3 win. Earlier, Gaborik scored two straight goals that nearly buried the Bruins before seven minutes had ticked off the clock.
So in that sense, the Bruins were happy with the point they scratched out.
“We redeemed ourselves pretty well,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “It could have been worse. That first 10 minutes is obviously what cost us the game tonight. It’s unfortunate. But what I liked about our team is our resiliency to get back and start playing the way we should have. We got back in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win.’’
On the winning goal, Chris Kelly tried to pass to Andrew Ference at the point. Ference couldn’t handle the puck. It was just the bobble that Gaborik needed.
Gaborik turned on the turbos and rocketed past Ference and Johnny Boychuk. Rask (29 saves) turned back Gaborik’s first shot with his right pad. But as the rebound popped into the air, Gaborik swiped it down and into the net to complete his three-goal barrage.
“He’s got a quick snap shot, so I closed my five-hole,’’ Rask said. “Then he bats it out of the air again. That’s why he scored 50 goals last year.’’
Late in regulation, Rask made two dynamic stops to send the game into overtime. The Rangers’ first line converged with speed on the goal. Rask turned back Nash’s close-range shot with his blocker. Rask then hit the deck to stuff Gaborik on the rebound in the final minute of the third. Had Rask not turned back the ace snipers, the Bruins would have left Broadway with zero points.
“Tuukka’s been good for us,’’ Julien said. “He made some big saves at the end to help us get at least one point. He’s been really good. If anybody had doubts about Tuukka, hopefully they’re erased by now. He’s been solid in every game he’s played.’’
Earlier, Gaborik was on pace to hit double digits. On New York’s first goal, the Rangers pulled off a set breakout. As Gaborik and Nash peeled out of the zone with speed, Michael Del Zotto hit Richards with an outlet pass. Richards tapped the puck to an in-stride Nash to trigger a two-on-one rush against Boychuk. Nash connected with Gaborik, who went upstairs on Rask at 4:36 of the first.
“It’s a lot more firepower,’’ Boychuk, who drew shutdown duty alongside Zdeno Chara, said of the threesome. “They’re all three really good players. You’ve just got to bear down and try to shut them down. Just limit their chances. They’re going to get some. But you have to limit them, because they’re three of the best players in the league.’’
Just over two minutes later, Gaborik doubled the Rangers’ lead. Rask got a piece of Del Zotto’s point shot. But Gaborik slipped behind the Boston defense and tucked the rebound past Rask at 6:49.
Julien called his timeout. He reminded his players that the roaring start they had prepared for had indeed taken place. The Bruins had done little to fight against the rush.
“We weren’t sharp. We weren’t ready to play,’’ Julien said. “Everything we talked about before the game wasn’t happening. We had to get our heads into it. Once we started doing that, you saw what was happening. We started playing a lot in their own end, doing all the things we were supposed to. Every time we did that, we were getting the success we were looking for. It was about refocusing the team and getting them to do those little things that we had talked about before the game.’’
The Bruins started their comeback in the second with their first power-play goal of the season. Dougie Hamilton slipped a point shot through traffic. Brad Marchand was positioned to tip Hamilton’s shot past Lundqvist at 1:05 of the second.
The Bruins tied the game at 12:24 of the second. Lundqvist stopped a close-range Milan Lucic shot. But Lucic stayed with the puck and tapped in the rebound to tie the game at 2-2.
Less than a minute later, Taylor Pyatt put the Rangers up a goal again. But Nathan Horton answered at 15:37 of the third with his first goal of the season. The Rangers tried to clear the zone. But Ference sealed off the wall and sent the puck down to Gregory Campbell in the corner. Campbell spotted Horton in the slot. Horton, using Carl Hagelin as a screen, snapped a shot past Lundqvist (26 saves) to tie the game at 3-3.
“They came out really strong,’’ Horton said of the Rangers. “We thought we were ready. We came back. We showed that we can come back. I think it was a really good game for us. We played really well after that.’’