BOSTON — It certainly appears David Pastrnak has worked the rust off.
Playing his fifth game since missing 16 following left thumb surgery, the winger raised his goal total to a team-leading 36.
“Pretty close,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked if Pastrnak is fully recovered. “Obviously, a great night. He was firing the puck well. It looked like he was more comfortable handling it in traffic.”
Coming off a 3-1 road trip but disappointed after blowing a two-goal lead Monday night against NHL-best Tampa Bay, the Bruins broke it open with four goals in the third period for their 12th consecutive victory at home. It’s their longest streak since winning 14 straight during the 2008-09 season.
Pastrnak completed his fourth career hat trick and third this season with a power-play goal to make it 4-2 with 7:08 to play, triggering a flow of hats that littered the ice. He became the first Bruins player with a trio of hat tricks in one season since Hall of Famer Cam Neely in 1993-94.
“It helps a lot for me coming back from after a long time (away),” Pastrnak said. “It was a little bit tough at the beginning.”
The Bruins had gone 1-7-2 in their last 10 games against the Rangers, including losing the first two meetings this season.
“It’s hard enough to win in this league when you don’t beat yourself,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “We did a lot of good things early, hanging around a good hockey team, then just imploded.”
Mika Zibanejad had two goals and Ryan Strome also scored for the Rangers, who have lost six of seven as the season nears a close. Their rebuilding project continues after dealing away eight players off the roster at the past two trade deadlines.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 shots, losing for just the second time in his last nine games against the Bruins. He made a highlight-reel save midway into the first period on Chris Wagner when he lunged across the crease to make a stick save.
“They have a lot of good players, but first, to win any games we have to play smart,” Lundqvist said. “We can’t have two too many men on the ice (penalties), for example. There’s no excuse for that.”
Pastrnak’s second goal broke a 1-all tie at 9:15 of the second. It came off a nice setup from David Krejci, who cut around Rangers defenceman Tony DeAngelo and shifted from forehand to backhand before slipping a cross-ice pass to the winger, who sent a one-timer into the net from the right circle.
Pastrnak then made a beautiful cross-ice pass to DeBrusk, who made it a two-goal lead 3:19 into the third.
With the Rangers short-handed following their first too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, Pastrnak one-timed a feed from Brad Marchand, moving Boston ahead 2:48 into the game.
The Rangers tied it with a power-play goal of their own when Strome sent Zibanejad in alone and he reached back to slip a forehand behind Halak as he was moving across the edge of the crease at 16:29 of the first period.
NOTES: The Bruins announced they’ve reached a 10-year agreement with their AHL affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island. They’ve been together continually since 1992. … Team president Neely met the media to discuss the agreement with Providence and was asked about the probable first-round playoff matchup with Toronto, which entered the night as the Eastern Conference’s fourth-best team. “We don’t want to look past anybody. We’ve got a strong division with Toronto and Tampa,” he said. “Would I like to see 2 play 7? Probably.” … Boston D Torey Krug returned after missing six games while he was in concussion protocol. … Nearly half (40 of 76) of the Rangers’ games have been decided by one goal. … New York D Brady Skjei took a puck off the side of the head and left the ice in the third.
Rangers: Host the St. Louis Blues on Friday.
Bruins: Host Florida on Saturday. Boston beat the Panthers 7-3 on the road last Saturday.