NEW YORK — The Boston Bruins are on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals, and they got there on the backs of their suddenly offensive defensemen and a potent fourth line of forwards.
They have outclassed the New York Rangers all over the ice in surging to a 3-0 lead in a series that could be over Thursday.
If the Bruins start firing on all cylinders, the Rangers will have little hope of even forcing a Game 5 let alone entertaining thoughts of matching the greatest comeback in sports.
The Bruins could afford to relax Wednesday, and many of them did, as the team held an optional practice at Madison Square Garden — the site of Boston’s 2-1 comeback win a night earlier that pushed the Rangers within one loss of elimination.
New York also got back on the ice at its suburban practice facility, and it was clear the sting of Tuesday night’s disheartening defeat lingered.
The Rangers are just over one week removed from back-to-back shutouts by Henrik Lundqvist in Games 6 and 7 against the Washington Capitals in the first round, but those good times feel a whole lot longer ago now.
Any kind of comeback now starts with Game 4 in New York. Three teams have recovered from an 0-3 hole to win an NHL series.
“We’re not looking at odds or anything like that,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’re looking at one game at home, and we’ll try to bring this thing back to Boston. That’s the only way we can look at it, to try to win one game in our building.”
The Bruins want to cut this short and not give the Rangers any reason to believe. New York trailed Washington 2-0 in the opening round and then 3-2 before advancing.
There is history hanging over Boston, including a blown 3-0 lead to Philadelphia in a series loss in 2010 and a squandered 3-1 edge in this year’s first round to Toronto before the Bruins rallied to win Game 7.