NEW YORK – The Boston Bruins have been winning every conceivable way recently. Against the sagging New York Rangers, they used stellar goaltending early and six straight goals to do the job.
Riley Nash and Zdeno Chara scored first-period goals and Patrice Bergeron added two in the second to help the surging Bruins swamp the Rangers 6-1 on Wednesday night.
The Bruins won for the 18th time in their last 23 games, getting 21 saves from backup netminder Anton Khudobin. Boston (33-11-8) is just a point behind Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay.
“In the first period, our goaltender was terrific,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He was the difference tonight. We got a lead going into the second and once that happened, our group thought we would be in good shape.”
Tim Schaller’s goal that made it 4-1 at 7:25 of the second period chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and brought boos from the crowd at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist was replaced by Ondrej Pavelec.
“After they scored two in the first, instead of staying aggressive the way I need to be, I became passive,” said Lundqvist, who hasn’t won since Jan. 18. “When you lose a lot, obviously it’s going to affect you.”
The Rangers had won seven straight over the Bruins, including both meetings this season. But New York was no match for the Boston attack on Wednesday.
After Rick Nash gave the Rangers an early lead with his 16th goal five minutes into the first period, the Bruins began their relentless barrage. Riley Nash tied it with his eighth of the season at 7:54 with assists to David Backes and Danton Heinen.
Lundqvist initially stopped a shot by Backes. But the Bruins forward recovered his rebound, then sent the puck in front to Nash as Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo was caught out of position.
Chara, the 40-year-old defenseman playing his 20th NHL season, put Boston ahead at 16:09 of the first with his fifth goal of the season and the 193rd of his career.
“We were talking we wanted to keep making strong plays and play well defensively,” Chara said. “Anton made some really good saves for us and we got ahead.”
The Bruins extended the lead to 3-1 at 3:47 of the second when Bergeron’s long shot from just inside the blue line skittered past Lundqvist after the goaltender seemed to make a pad save.
Schaller extended the lead with his eighth of the season before Bergeron scored his second of the game — this time short-handed — at the 10-minute mark. The goal was Bergeron’s team-leading 24th and came with assists to Chara and Brad Marchand, who returned after serving a five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey’s Marcus Johansson.
“Every line is stepping up for us,” Marchand said. “It makes us hard to play against.”
Sean Kuraly completed the scoring with his fifth goal at 6:14 of the third.
Boston is 18-1-4 in their last 23 games and 27-4-4 in its last 35 contests. The Bruins are 10-0-2 in their last 12 road games. They last lost an away game in regulation on Dec. 4 at Nashville.
“We want to play up to a certain standard and not worry about what the other team does,” Chara added. “We just want to focus on us.”
Maple Leafs 3, Predators 2 (SO)
In Toronto, James van Riemsdyk scored in regulation and again in the seventh round of a shootout, and Frederik Anderson made 44 saves in the Maple Leafs’ triumph over Nashville.
Kasperi Kapanen also scored in regulation to help Toronto win for the sixth time in seven games. Andersen improved to 7-1-0 against Nashville.
Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson scored for the Predators, and Pekka Rinne stopped 30 shots.
Van Riemsdyk opened the scoring in the first period after collecting a pass from Connor Brown along the side boards. Van Riemsdyk’s long-range shot went off the stick of defenseman Alexei Emelin and past Rinne at 16:06.
The Leafs added to their lead in the second period. With Nashville on the power play, Kapanen stripped P.K Subban of the puck at the Predators’ blue line for a breakaway. Craig Smith caught up to Kapanen, who initially blocked his path to the goal, but Kapanen spun around Smith and put a wrist shot through the legs of Rinne to give Toronto a 2-0 lead at 9:38.
Kings 5, Oilers 2
In Los Angeles, Paul LaDue scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play with 5:27 remaining and the Kings pulled away late in a victory against Edmonton.
Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves for his fourth straight win, although his shutout streak ended at 193:58 — the second-longest in franchise history behind Jonathan Quick’s mark of 202:11 in October 2011. Adrian Kempe and Kyle Clifford also scored for Los Angeles, which is 5-2-0 after losing six in a row.
Drew Doughty got his 300th NHL assist and 400th career point for the Kings. Current general manager Rob Blake is the only other defenseman in franchise history to reach both milestones.
Connor McDavid scored for the third straight game and Leon Draisaitl had a power-play goal for the Oilers