The Boston Bruins appeared to be in midseason form in an impressive season-opening win over the sluggish New York Rangers, and both teams played the same way in their second games.
The Bruins can keep both trends going when they visit Madison Square Garden looking to deal the Rangers their first 0-3-0 start in 14 seasons Wednesday night.
Boston (2-0-0) defeated visiting New York 3-1 on Saturday, outshooting the Rangers 34-21. Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille and Johnny Boychuk scored as the Bruins looked sharp compared to a New York team that seemed rusty after the long lockout.
The Bruins carried over that momentum to a 2-1 shootout victory over Winnipeg on Monday, getting another strong performance from Tuukka Rask with 26 saves and winning after killing off a large portion of short-handed time late.
Boston was short-handed for 2 minutes, 17 seconds of overtime after playing the final 71 seconds of regulation down a man. The Bruins have killed off all nine opposing power plays this season.
"We've stuck to our system," said forward Patrice Bergeron, who helped kill those penalties before scoring in the shootout. "I guess we've kept it simple."
The Bruins weren't at their best against the Jets in a game that featured several lackluster stretches of play, but a return engagement with the Rangers could result in another intense matchup. The teams engaged in two fights and several scrums after the whistle in the opener.
"The battle level and the plays are right up there to midseason (level)," Bergeron told the team's official website Monday. "So you know, every game is going to be hard it's going to be tough battles and we need to be ready for everyone."
The Rangers certainly haven't looked ready. New York followed the loss to Boston by falling 6-3 to Pittsburgh in its home opener Sunday.
Plagued by sloppiness and unable to match their opponent physically for the second straight game, the Rangers trailed 3-1 at the end of the first period and saw Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist chased midway through the second.
"It's not an individual thing. As a group, we didn't have the fight level the past two games," coach John Tortorella said.
Tortorella's club gave up two power-play goals in five chances - the first goal coming after Brad Richards took an interference penalty two minutes into the contest - and allowed 39 shots.
Newcomer Rick Nash, one of the few Rangers to turn in a pair of solid efforts, scored his first goal with New York in the third period.
"I don't think we're pushing panic buttons," Nash said. "It's not the start we wanted. We've got to get back to work. There are a lot of mistakes out there we have to correct. It's a short season, so we've got to correct them fast."
Tortorella already appears to be mulling personnel tweaks given the shortened season, experimenting with different line combinations in practice Tuesday.
The Rangers dropped three straight to open last season, but managed to gain two points in those games and played the first two in Europe. A popular preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup, New York hasn't lost its first three in regulation since a five-game skid to open 1998-99.
The Bruins will be looking for their third straight win in the series. They won 2-1 in the last meeting at MSG on April 1.
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