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Bergeron hurt as Higgins late winner sinks Bruins

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The Canadian Press
1/4/2010 11:48:03 PM
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NEW YORK -- For a change, it was the visiting coach at Madison Square Garden who left the building angry at his team.

Taking a page from the book of New York Rangers coach John Tortorella, Boston Bruins counterpart Claude Julien vented frustration after a painful 3-2 loss on Monday night.

The Bruins generated few scoring chances and fell behind 2-0 heading into the third period. They scored twice late to get even, but ended up on the short side after Christopher Higgins snapped a tie with 1:29 left.

"There were times in the past that they had their dressing room under control," Julien said. "Right now, you have to coach, you have to be a cheerleader, you've got to wake them up. You've got to do too many things that a coach shouldn't have to do at this level.

"These are professionals and they've got to take ownership of their dressing room at some point."

The Bruins lost for only the second time in seven games, but they have scored just 107 goals this season -- tied for the third-fewest in the NHL. To make matters worse, leading scorer Patrice Bergeron didn't play after being hit in the hand by a second-period shot from teammate Dennis Wideman. Bergeron will return home Tuesday and won't make the trip to Ottawa for a game that night.

Bergeron was named to Canada's Olympic men's hockey team on Wednesday. He has 11 goals and 20 assists in 40 games this season.

Boston trails Northeast Division-leading Buffalo by seven points at the midpoint of the season.

"These are opportunities that we just can't waste," forward Blake Wheeler said. "We can't wait and say with 20-something games left, 'OK, let's step on the gas now. That will be good enough.' We've got to start now.

"Talk is pretty cheap. It's all about going out and doing it. Once we see that on the ice night in and night out, then we can start talking and maybe get our swagger back."

The Rangers appeared to be cruising to just their second win in 10 home games when Boston struck for two goals 1:26 apart. New York escaped when Higgins sneaked his fifth of the season past Tuukka Rask.

It was the Long Island native's first goal at Madison Square Garden since his first game there with Montreal on Oct. 6, 2005.

"We played a strong game," Higgins said. "We just let up a little bit. ... We let them back into the game. But we were confident we were going to win, even when they tied it up."

Boston trailed 2-0 when defending Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara went to the penalty box with 6:32 left and gave the Rangers their fifth power play. Defenceman Matt Hunwick cut the deficit in half by scoring a short-handed goal with 5:27 remaining, then assisted on Wheeler's goal that tied it at 15:59.

Higgins was the third unlikely scorer for the Rangers. Erik Christensen connected for the second time in three games and Ales Kotalik added his first goal in two months. They provided the secondary scoring Tortorella said the Rangers desperately needed after a 2-1 loss to Carolina in overtime Saturday.

Entering Monday, leading scorer Marian Gaborik had netted 25 per cent of the Rangers' goals.

Kotalik's power-play goal in the first period gave New York the lead, and Christensen doubled it in the second. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 26 saves. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of 15 games and shows no signs of tiring despite 16 straight starts.

"We played really well in all facets of the game," Tortorella said.

Rask, subbing for U.S. Olympian Tim Thomas, stopped 32 shots. He beat the Rangers 1-0 last season in his only game with Boston. The Bruins played for the first time since their Winter Classic victory Friday over Philadelphia.

"There is no doubt we have a lot of character," Wheeler said. "I can't even count the number of times where we've been down after two periods and we come out in the third and give a really solid 20 minutes. But it's not good enough. If we compete for 60 minutes, it's a different story."

When Christensen scored 7:34 into the second period, the Rangers had their first two-goal lead in five games. What made it rarer was that it came against the Bruins.

Two of the three previous meetings between the clubs, and four of eight, were decided by 1-0 scores -- with each team winning twice. New York earned a 1-0 victory at Boston on Nov. 1 in the only other matchup this season.

Since being moved to the top line alongside Brandon Dubinsky and Gaborik two games earlier, Christensen has scored twice and added two assists -- his only points in 20 contests this season. Kotalik scored his first goal in 22 games.

New York's power play has struggled lately, connecting only twice in 23 chances before Monday. The Rangers then failed on their first two opportunities. But on the second half of a 5-on-3 advantage, Kotalik fired a shot from the left point that made it 1-0 at 9:58.

NOTES: Bergeron played four shifts, totalling 1:51 in the second. ... Kotalik hadn't scored since Nov. 5 at Edmonton. ... Rask has three shutouts in 22 NHL games. ... Lundqvist was hit in the head by the forearm of Boston C Marc Savard in the second period. No penalty was called.

Henrik Lundqvist stops Daniel Paille (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
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