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Bruins lose their way against Rangers, again, in matchup of top contenders in Eastern Conference

The Rangers' Artemi Panarin scored past Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman twice in the second period and completed a hat trick into an empty net in the third.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Celine Dion stole the show.

The Rangers stole the two points.

The Bruins’ three-game winning streak came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Broadway Blueshirts, who danced out of town Thursday night with a 5-2-win, disappointing the majority of the 17,000-plus at TD Garden.

That included Dion, the international superstar songstress, who showed up in the Bruins dressing room to deliver the starting lineup and then several times on the Jumbotron, eliciting the loudest cheers of the night.

Even with the loss, the Bruins (41-15-15, 97 points) remained on top of the NHL heap, with the Rangers (46-20-4, 96) right on their heels in the Eastern Conference and overall standings.


Celine Dion read the lineup in the Bruins dressing room and was a big hit with the crowd during the game.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Despite looking sluggish for large stretches, Boston was in it for most of the game, knotting the score at 2 just 3:17 into the third on Justin Brazeau’s third goal in two games. Just 40 seconds later, however, Adam Fox went top shelf to beat Jeremy Swayman and restore the lead for New York, which closed it with a pair of empty netters, including the final one by Artemi Panarin, which capped his seventh career hat trick and third this season.

The Rangers played a more physical and more connective game, taking time and space away from the Bruins in all three zones.

“Yeah, they checked really well. I don’t think we checked well enough. I don’t think we competed hard enough on pucks,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who added he was “surprised and disappointed” by his club’s effort.

The Bruins squashed an early Rangers power play (Brandon Carlo for high sticking) and seemed buoyed by the kill, jumping on the visitors for a good stretch. They gained their own man advantage (Fox for high-sticking) and peppered New York goalie Jonathan Quick with several testers.


Trent Frederic, on a nice feed by Brazeau working out of Gretzky’s office, had a pair of swipes on Quick (24 saves) before Jake DeBrusk pounced on a second rebound. The red-hot winger glided across the top of the slot and ripped one past Quick’s left pad just four seconds after the penalty expired.

Panarin tied it up with the first of his two gift-wrapped goals of the second period.

Danton Heinen tried a blind drop pass that Panarin intercepted. The crafty winger closed on Swayman (26 saves) and, using Pavel Zacha as a screen, popped one into the net.

“It was kind of a broken play and then it went through a couple skates, so one that I could work on seeing through traffic and again, another opportunity that I can work on to make a save,” Swayman said.

Panarin’s second present came off Hampus Lindholm’s stick. As the defenseman closed on Panarin, he got a stick on a pass and the puck struck DeBrusk, who was diving across the slot to prevent the back door relay, and it slid through Swayman’s pads to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead with just 35 seconds left in the period.

The celebration for Justin Brazeau and the Bruins was short-lived after he scored the tying goal, his third in two games to go with an assist on Jake DeBrusk's opening tally. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Brazeau pulled the Bruins even he fought off being mugged by K’Andre Miller on Quick’s front porch to bang home a Marchand rebound.

Fox’s answering goal was a gut punch from which the Bruins never recovered. Even with Swayman pulled for an extra skater in the final minutes they couldn’t dominate, leading to goals from Mika Zibanejad and Panarin, who now has 41 on the season.


“I think overall we look over the game for 60 minutes, I think they outworked us a little bit,” Lindholm said. “I think we weren’t really playing our ‘A’ game and even the nights when we don’t play our ‘A’ game, I think we’re usually pretty good at getting into winning those battles and stuff, and that’s something we kind of lacked a little bit here in this game.”

DeBrusk was at a loss for why Boston couldn’t match the Rangers’ emotion.

“We knew it was a big game,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve had our number — we haven’t beaten these guys [0-2-1], so I don’t think the emotions were really a question coming in. I think it was just a matter of just answering their push, which we didn’t do.”

For Quick, the Milford, Conn., native and former UMass star, it was career win No. 391, tying him with Ryan Miller for most among American-born goalies.

The Bruins next will hit the road for six games, the last five of which are against teams fighting for playoff spots or slots. Swayman believes the trip will have its benefits.

“I have no doubt in this team. There’s no doubt in this locker room and again, when we lose, when we win, there’s opportunities to grow,” he said. “Experience is gained with work and we’re going to do that on this road trip. So yeah, we’re looking forward to it.”


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him @globejimmcbride.