Hot Bruins expect challenging contest vs. Rangers

Mar 19, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) scores a goal past Ottawa Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With just 12 regular-season games remaining, the Boston Bruins hope to be hitting their stride at the right time.

The NHL’s best team awaits a stiff challenge, though, as the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers pay a visit to Boston on Thursday night in the Bruins’ final home game before a six-game road trip.

The Bruins (41-14-15, 97 points) used a three-goal third period to coast to their sixth win in eight games (6-1-1) on Tuesday, a 6-2 triumph over the Ottawa Senators.

“I think if we just keep getting better at understanding who we are, how we get there, and our game management continues to grow, I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said.

Boston’s most recent game was a showcase of both its stars and depth as it reached the five-goal mark for the third time in its last five contests.

Star winger David Pastrnak capped off his second hat trick of the season in the final period, while fourth-liners Justin Brazeau (two goals) and Jesper Boqvist also contributed to the Bruins’ scoring. Kevin Shattenkirk (three) and Morgan Geekie (two) had multiple assists.

Brazeau hadn’t scored since his NHL debut on Feb. 19, but still being able to contribute to this team as consistently as he has been extra special.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Brazeau said. “I’ve never really played too, too much winning hockey, so it’s really nice to be a part of it and hopefully continue to be a part of it down the stretch here.”

Meanwhile, Pastrnak — whose 44 goals are fourth in the league — has built a Hart Trophy-worthy resume in the eyes of at least one teammate.

“When you look at the guys who are being talked about, a big reason why they’re being considered is because they helped elevate their team … maybe when the rest of the team isn’t playing their best,” Shattenkirk said. “He’s definitely done that for us this year. … It’s always nice to have a game-breaker on your team. They’re hard to find.”

The Rangers (45-20-4, 94 points) look to bounce back from just their second loss in a seven-game span (5-2-0) as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

Coach Peter Laviolette’s group are without top-four defensemen Ryan Lindgren and captain Jacob Trouba due to injuries, which is especially taxing in the midst of eight games in 13 days.

Thursday marks the seventh game of that busy stretch, but a western trip also looms after home games on Saturday and Tuesday.

“I think a lot of teams are playing a lot of hockey right now and we know that,” Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said. “We dealt with these injuries all year. It hurts, but you still try to go out and do the right things.”

Despite Tuesday’s loss, ex-Seattle Kraken forward Alex Wennberg scored his first goal with New York — a game-tying, power-play tally in the first period — in his 700th NHL game. He has points in three straight games.

Alexis Lafreniere added his career-high 20th goal of the season and an assist.

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel played in his first game as a Ranger since being traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 8, pairing with Zac Jones.

“I thought (Ruhwedel) was good,” Laviolette said. “I thought the defense was good. I don’t think we gave (Winnipeg) too much. They got a couple of breakaways from our offensive zone play, so we’ve got to tighten that up a bit.”

–Field Level Media



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