NEW YORK - With just over two minutes to go in the first period at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Bruins were trailing the New York Rangers 1-0.
They were getting outshot 20-8 and the last wall of defense, Tuukka Rask, was keeping them in the game.
When the whistle sounded after a stop by Henrik Lundqvist, Jarome Iginla was in the face of Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal near the crease. Fired up, the Bruins winger gave him a shove, which then turned into a heated "bout" of shoves back and forth.
Twenty seconds later, Iginla deflected in a David Krejci pass from atop the crease to tie the game. The Bruins would never surrender the lead en route to a 6-3 win in New York City.
"Not from the start, but I think we got mad enough after the first 10 minutes that we reacted into doing something," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said, of the team finding more emotion in their game.
"So I think that was huge and, you know, we just need to get over that hump. But once we scored that first goal, it just seemed like everybody relaxed and we just got better from there on in."
Searching for their first post-Olympic Break win, after dropping the first two games to Buffalo and Washington, the Bruins found the higher compete level that they wanted.
"It's about working smart and working hard," Dougie Hamilton had said, hours before puck drop.
But when the puck did drop, it took the Black & Gold some time to find that "meanness" and aggression that defines their hard-working game.
"We definitely talked about trying to get more physical than the last couple of games, just to get back," said Iginla, who recorded a goal and an assist on the night. "As a team, we talked about sharpness and that competitiveness, getting to another level again."
"We had it going before the break, but our last couple had been not quite where it needs to be, and I thought after the first 10 minutes, we played a lot better and it was definitely the right direction, in bringing that competitiveness and all of the lines being determined."
In the first half of the opening frame, the Rangers fired 14 shots on goal, with the Bruins only getting one through to Lundqvist.
It was reminiscent of Boston's last game at Madison Square Garden back on November 19, when Rask had to make a season-high 43 saves in a 2-1 win over the Blueshirts.
"This is the second game here where he's really stood on his head; he played great for us," said Julien. "We needed him tonight."
"He stood tall and we kept plugging away and getting the odd goal here and there."
Hamilton jumped into the play after a heavy rush from Iginla and Milan Lucic to rip home his seventh of the season.
Five minutes later, the Bruins generated their first real sustained pressure of the night. After keeping the puck in, Matt Bartkowski sent a pass over to Hamilton, who fired towards the goal. Loui Eriksson pushed the loose puck to Soderberg, who made a move in tight as he was falling and roofed it over Lundqivst.
"I thought once we started getting pucks in deep and then we started getting our forecheck going, things started turning around," said Julien. "We started to get a little more physical and won some battles and then all of a sudden, we got a bit more even with that team, and then slowly but surely, we took over with some timely goals."
None was more timely than Gregory Campbell's shorthanded tally in third period to get the Bruins a two-goal cushion.
Boston had entered the third period up 3-2, after allowing another odd-man rush that ended in Brad Richards firing one into Rask's top corner.
Forced on the penalty kill, after Hamilton's clearing attempt went out of play, Eriksson noticed a line change happening between PK forwards Kelly and Campbell. He waited it out, and fed a driving Campbell, who made a simple move backhand to forehand, putting it past Lundqvist.
"Well honestly, it was a great play by Loui, it was a good change by Kells, for him to allow me to kind of get lost there," said Campbell. "And Loui just had the patience to wait it out a little bit and wait for me to come in and drive the seam there."
Campbell then made it 5-2, again attacking the net, with Daniel Paille firing a shot towards the goal that went off his skate and in. After review, it was deemed a good goal.
He kicked up his own competitiveness away from the puck, too, recording five hits on the night and utilizing his strong forecheck on Iginla's goal that gave the team life.
"I liked the character that we showed, and I think that was the number one thing - where we had a slow start and where we would have liked to come out a little harder, I think we regained our composure there in the second half of the first and fought our way back," said Campbell.
"The game plan is pretty simple against the Rangers. They're a hard-working team. To match that, we just want to keep it simple and outwork them."
It wasn't a perfect game defensively, but the emotion and compete level was vastly improved.
The win gave Boston their first season sweep of the Rangers for the first time since the 1982-83 season.
"We wanted to get better defensively, and we definitely [still] need to get better, so it's something to look at," said Rask. "But it's a great win. To score six goals on a good goalie like that, we've got to be satisfied with that."
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