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Rangers Outwork, Outslug and Outscore Bruins Again

The Rangers are running away with the Eastern Conference



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    All season long, we've wondered what would happen when the Rangers had to win a game without relying on Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head.

    Doubts about the Rangers' goal scoring prowess have been raised on several occasions, but they might just be a little quieter after the offense bailed the team out during Sunday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Bruins.

    The Rangers answered twice after Boston tied the game to beat the Bruins for the third time this season and run out their lead in the Eastern Conference to 12 points. 

    Yes, we realize how silly it sounds to even imply Lundqvist required bailing out on a day when he made 33 saves on 36 shots and stoned the Bruins on plenty of good chances over the course of the afternoon. The fact remains that the Rangers needed the offense to come through in the third period if they were going to get a win and that's just what happened.

    It probably won't come as much of a surprise to learn that Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan were the guys who scored the two key goals in the third period. As bad as things have gotten at times for the Rangers up front this year, those two guys have consistently figured out a way to get it done.

    Gaborik, whose transformation from John Tortorella whipping boy to heart of the team has been remarkable to watch, punched in a puck from the doorstep after the Rangers took advantage of an ill-timed pinch by the Boston defense to put them up 3-2. Then, after the Bruins tied the game again, Stepan took a pass from Michael Del Zotto and ripped the puck over Tim Thomas' shoulder for the game-winner.

    It's a nice way to win a game, especially when the victory continues to lock in the notion that there's no way for the Bruins to beat the Rangers. It's kinda the flip side of what Sunday represented for the Knicks up in Boston, the inescapable feeling that no matter what you do there's no way that you can win.

    And the Bruins seem to know it. Thomas took a break from his political commentary to blame the lights in MSG for the fact that he couldn't save more than 13 of the Rangers' 17 shots and Bruins thug Milan Lucic tried to ignite something with late hits and provocations on smaller Rangers all afternoon. 

    Lucic wasn't willing to go with John Scott, the hulking enforcer acquired from Chicago last week, but he would fight Brandon Prust and hit Ryan McDonagh from behind after the final buzzer. The Rangers never backed down, probably because there's no reason to be intimidated by a team that has lost to you 20 of the last 27 times you've played.

    There doesn't seem to be much that intimidates these Rangers, though. They took five of a possible six points out of three games in four days played without Ryan Callahan and need binoculars to see the rest of the Eastern Conference.

    Not a bad place to find yourself come the first week of March.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.