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Rangers give up two goals late in loss to Bruins

New York Rangers' Rick Nash (61) brings the

New York Rangers' Rick Nash (61) brings the puck around the net in front of Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (37) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Photo Credit: AP / Michael Dwyer

BOSTON - The Rangers' 22-game stretch of unusually good health came to an abrupt halt Friday when center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs on an unpenalized check into the boards by Matt Beleskey during a 4-3 loss to the Bruins at TD Garden.

"He'll be out indefinitely," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after the Bruins scored two late goals to erase a 3-2 deficit and handed the Rangers their second straight loss. "In our opinion, it was a late hit, more than a second and he was a couple feet away from the boards."

The league's department of player safety is expected to review the hit to determine if discipline is required.

The winner for the Bruins, who have won five straight games, was scored with 1:43 left when David Krejci's slap shot bounced off Emerson Etem's stick and floated past Henrik Lundqvist. "Etes tries to block the shot, it hits his stick, Hank can't see it and it's in the back of the net," Dan Girardi said. "For most of the year, it's been going our way with the bounces. It's not always going to be perfect."

With the Rangers leading 2-1 on goals by Oscar Lindberg and Rick Nash (his sixth in four games), Beleskey checked Stepan at 8:06 of the second period after he had passed the puck. Dylan McIlrath immediately went after Beleskey and landed a few punches. "He was right there, probably saw it was a late hit and protected a teammate who was in a vulnerable position," Vigneault said.

Said Girardi: "If a guy is going to make a hit like that, he's going to hold them accountable."

Beleskey received only five minutes for fighting. McIlrath was banished for 17 minutes: five for fighting, two for instigating and an automatic 10-minute misconduct. The Bruins' Brett Connolly tied the score on the ensuing power play.

Stepan -- who has six goals and 12 points, kills penalties and is on the first power-play unit -- returned for a few shifts in the second period but not for the third period. "Step's a crucial part of our team," Ryan McDonagh said. "It's a hockey hit. Step's one of the smartest players I've ever seen. Usually he knows if he's getting hit."

The Rangers (16-5-2) host the Flyers on Sunday, and Vigneault said the coaches would discuss their options and lineup on the trip back to New York. One option would be to move Kevin Hayes to Stepan's spot on the second line. Viktor Stalberg, a healthy scratch Friday, presumably will dress. Long term, the Rangers could call up a forward from Hartford, possibly Brian Gibbons or Jayson Megna.

The game itself, which followed Wednesday night's 5-1 loss to Montreal, was a physical affair, with the Bruins' league-leading power play going 2-for-3 and the Rangers scoring once in three opportunities.

The goal that tied the score, by Ryan Spooner, came with Jesper Fast in the box for holding at 14:54 of the third period.

"That last penalty changed the whole game," said Lundqvist (29 saves). "We had it under control. I don't know how they called the last penalty, I didn't see it the way they did. At the same time, they took advantage of it. The last few games, we've been losing our structure a bit under pressure, especially in the last five minutes. We just need to maintain our structure a little bit.We were running around too much and opened up a bit; that's when you get exposed."

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