By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Chris Kreider and Brad Richards scored 90 seconds apart early in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and lead the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers scored on their seventh shot of the game against red-hot rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, and on three of their first 12, in the tight defensive battle that was Game One. At the other end of the ice Henrik Lundqvist was rock solid, stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced.
Kreider scored at the seven-minute mark of the third period, taking a Derek Stepan pass and skating over the Washington blueline before uncorking a wicked slap shot that beat Holtby to the glove side. Kreider dropped to his knees and pumped both arms as The Garden Faithful exploded in a deafening roar. The goal was Kreider's second in six games since making his pro debut in Game 3 of the opening round of the playoffs against Ottawa. The assist gave Stepan five points in his last three games.
With the crowd chanting "Kreider! Kreider!" the Rangers rookie helped set up Richards back-breaking goal at 8:30 of the third period with a neat chip pass along the left wing wall in the Caps zone. From there Richards skated towards the net, patiently waited to consider his options, then slipped a shot between Holtby's pads for his third goal of the post-season, and a 3-1 Rangers lead.
The Rangers and Capitals headed into the third period tied 1-1 because the Caps were able to score a crushing goal with just 3.5 seconds remaining in the middle stanza, one that silenced a Garden crowd that was prepared to send the home team off the ice with a rousing ovation for a strong 40 minute affort, and lead. But Brooks Laich laid a perfect saucer pass on to the stick of Jason Chimera off a late Caps rush and Chimera chipped is perfectly between Lundqvsit's pads for his second post-season goal, tying the game 1-1.
Artem Anisimov had snapped a scoreless tie with his first goal of the playoffs earlier in the second period. Anisimov, playing on the third line with both Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky injured and scratched from Game One, slid a wraparound shot past Holtby at 12:38 to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Ironically, the goal came mere moments after Stephane Matteau, who scored the most famous wraparound goal in franchise history, was shown on the scoreboard and cheered by the Garden Faithful.
Several minutes before Anisimov's goal, the Rangers had completed a fantastic penalty kill, including 34 seconds worth of a two-man disadvantage in which Ruslan Fedotenko---who also earned the primary assist on Ansimov's goal---made a huge steal and subsequent clear of the puck in front of the Rangers cage. Through the first two periods the Rangers had killed all four Capitals power plays.
Steve Eminger made his 2012 Stanley Cup playoff debut for the Rangers, playing forward as opposed to his usual defense position with Boyle and Dubinsky out injured.