In the middle of a post-Thanksgiving matinee at home against the league-leading New York Rangers, Matt Beleskey single handedly shifted the momentum of the game with a bone-crushing hit. Literally.
The Bruins winger obliterated Rangers' alternate captain Derek Stepan, catapulting the center into the boards. The video of the hit is below:
While Beleskey laid out Stephan with a perfectly clean hit, the check was definitely late. 1.48 seconds and three steps after the puck was released, Beleskey's big body crashed into Stepan, who was noticeably unprepared for contact. Stepan broke two of his ribs after the collision on the play, when he was admiring his breakout pass. Rangers Dylan McIlrath immediately confronted Beleskey and stood up for teammate, acquiring numerous penalties in the process. However, this hit shifted the game. Not only did the Rangers lose one of the best players and leaders, it served as an emotional blow to the team. On the flip side, the colossal collision served as an energy boost that powered the team to win the game.
Before the hit, the Bruins trailed two to one. A minute and 28 seconds into McIlrath's penalty, Brett Connolly fired a low wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game. Bang. And it wasn't just the goals. Here's the shot chart from the game, courtesy War On Ice, with the hit highlighted in solid red:
Despite winning four games in a row, the Bruins viewed the Rangers as a measuring stick. Against the best team in the league, the Blueshirts represented an obstacle to prove how far the Bruins had actually progressed since their disastrous start to the season. Could they defeat their rival in a pivotal matinee matchup? Are the Bruins actually a playoff contender?
Trailing three to two late in the third period, Boston's pure will to win shown through. A bouncing puck trickled to Ryan Spooner, who jammed it over Henrik Lundqvist's pad to even the score. Then, this happened:
Beleskey's hit sparked the fire that lead the Bruins to win, one which meant everything to the Black and Gold. Not only did the victory cement the Bruins' strong end to the month of November and give the team its fifth win in a row, it showed that the Bruins can beat the best, handing the Rangers a devastating loss and inspired confidence that this team can firmly compete for a playoff spot.
For the Bruins, their momentum should be able to carry over into Western Canada, where the team begins a three game road trip on Wednesday. The trip represents an opportunity for six points against below-average opponents and a chance to climb further in the standings. The Bruins are currently sitting at eighth in the Eastern conference and fourth in the Atlantic division with 27 points.
On the opposite side, the Rangers dropped the following game at home to the Flyers, still muddled in the heartbreaking loss and firing shots at the Bruins. New York listlessly struggling to formulate any real offense (or even a single goal). The Blueshirts rebounded by defeating the Hurricanes, which snapped their three game losing streak.
Beleskey's hit served as the ultimate shift in momentum. It elevated the Bruins to beat the Rangers and propelled the team to finish their mini-homestand on a five game win streak. The Bruins should be overflowing with confidence heading into their upcoming road trip. The Rangers proceeded to appear deflating in their next game, which culminated their three game losing streak. Although they were able to rebound, Beleskey's hit separated two teams heading in different directions.