The setting was different, the goaltenders were different, the coach was different and so were the stakes five years ago but the circumstances and outcomes were virtually the same as on Sunday.
Here’s a hint. It didn’t work out too well for the Rangers either time.
So it was Game 1 of the 2016 conference quarterfinals in Pittsburgh and at 19:11 of the first period, Henrik Lundqvist suffered a scratch around the right eye when Marc Staal’s stick somehow poked through one of the openings of the King’s mask.
Lundqvist went to the bench for repairs from trainer Jim Ramsay and remained in the game under the auspices of then-head coach Alain Vigneault.
And 31 seconds later, Patric Hornqvist beat Lundqvist for a 1-0 lead at 19:42 in a contest the Penguins would win 5-2 with Antti Raanta in nets for the final 40 minutes and use as a springboard to a five-game series victory.
Sunday at the Garden, Boston’s Nick Ritchie landed on Alex Georgiev’s head during a goalmouth scramble at 5:48 of the first period. The netminder’s mask slipped and scratched his left eye.
Georgiev went to the bench for repairs administered by Ramsay, returned to action, and surrendered a left wing snipe to Charlie Coyle 53 second later to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 6:41 in a match they would win 4-1 with relative ease.
David Quinn did not second-guess himself for allowing Georgiev to remain in the match, though the coach was forced to go with Igor Shesterkin in relief for the remainder of the period after NHL concussion protocol pulled Georgiev off the ice in conjunction with Coyle’s goal.
“I was told he was OK, so we kept him in. Rammer worked on him and he seemed fine,” the coach said of his starting netminder. “Then the NHL kind of buzzed down and said they wanted to put him in [concussion protocol] and take a look at his head.
“Then after the first period he was fine just like he was before the game.”
The decision to stick with Georgiev probably had negligible effect on this match in which the Rangers’ top players were dominated by Boston’s best to a stunning degree and the Blueshirts proved little threat.
But, hey, the B’s then scored on one of their two shots against Shesterkin, albeit on a net-front redirect by Trent Frederic at 18:14 following a K’Andre Miller turnover, before Georgiev returned for the duration to start the second period. The Bulgarian-born goaltender allowed one the rest of the way, a long one through traffic scored by Charlie McAvoy at 10:20 of the second for a 3-0 lead that signaled 3-0 as 30, which is newspaper jargon for, “end.”
Georgiev, coming off consecutive victories in making his third straight start, said that he did not believe that the boo-boo had played a part in Coyle’s goal. That, of course, is what Lundqvist had said in Pittsburgh five years ago.
“No, it didn’t bother me. I tried to be in the game as usual,” said No. 40, whose team was outshot by a 36-21 margin. “I need to watch the video, but it seemed like a good move by [Coyle]. I definitely wish I could have had that puck.”
Again. The Rangers just were not able to raise or maintain their level to the degree necessary to compete with a Bruins’ team motivated to play at peak efficiency following four defeats in five games that included Thursday’s 7-2 drubbing by the Islanders at the Coliseum a night before Friday’s 6-2 pasting at the Garden.
Patrice Bergeron and linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had their way with whichever unit they faced. The Boston line finished with a 17-2 advantage in five-on-five shot attempts, while the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich combination was 1-8 and the Kreider-Ryan Strome-Colin Blackwell trio was 3-13 in attempts. (Quinn flipped Kreider with Alexis Lafreniere with 5:32 remaining in the second period.)
Kreider finished with a 4-21 Corsi mark, 1-14 when on against Bergeron’s line. Adam Fox finished 10-21 that included a painful 2-16 against Bergeron’s unit. Zibanejad had a 7-14 Corsi match that reflected his thorough ineffectiveness.
It is likely that nothing would have changed if, A) there had been no mishap involving the notorious goal-crasher Ritchie and Georgiev; and/or, B) Quinn had handled it differently. But that’s the only variable in this one in which the Blueshirts’ big guns went AWOL and gave their team essentially no chance to win.