The New York Rangers' traveling secretary stood at the Eastern Airlines counter at Logan Airport last night and quietly ordered 25 tickets to New York City.
"Round trip?" he was asked. "Er, ah, I'm not exactly sure," he mumbled. Until 9:52 p.m. yesterday, there was an excellent chance that the Rangers would be coming back to Boston next Sunday night for the fifth game of the Stanley Cup playoff finals.
But Boston forward Ken Hodge cast doubt on that possibility with a third-period power-play goal last night at Boston Garden. The shot, off a pass from Shaky Walton directly in front of New York goaltender Gilles Villemure, gave the Boston Bruins an exciting 2-1 victory, and put them two games up in the best-of-seven series.
Until Hodge's goal, scored on a two-man advantage situation. New York had made a go of it. A first-period power-play by Boston's John Bucyk had been answered by Ranger Rod Gilbert at 7:23 of the middle period, and the play was evenly matched from then on.
In fact, New York actually outshot Boston, 28-25, but was thwarted on several occasions, once during the final 20 seconds, by Bruin goaltender Ed Johnston. At that point, Ranger coach Emile Francis had pulled Villemure for an extra skater in a desperate attempt to tie the game in the final minute of play.
So the series now moves to Madison Square Garden for the third and fourth games, and it is anybody's guess whether it will return to Boston. The Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 1970, were typically effective shackling New York's breakout play, resorting to controlled, and sometimes marginally controlled, violence.