By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Devils may have been the team with more rest, but it was the Rangers who came through late in the game Monday night. As a result the Rangers scored a 3-0 victory over the Devils in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden, drawing first blood in the best-of-seven Bridge and Tunnel series.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his second shutout of the post-season---the fifth playoff shutout of his career---with a 21-save effort, while Chris Kreider, Dan Girardi, and Artem Anisimov each scored a goal and added an assist when the Rangers produced the only scoring of the game in the third period.
After nearly 41 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Rangers scored the first goal of the game---and of the series---just 53 seconds into the third period. Girardi hamered a slap shot from the right point past Martin Brodeur, who was screened in front by Derek Stepan, to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Girardi's second post-season goal was set up by a patient, soft pass near the boards by Kreider.
From that point on the Rangers energy level jumped considerably from where it was in a second period when the Devils held the upper hand for long stretches. The Rangers came within inches of doubling their lead midway through the period, but Brodeur made a diving glove save on Marc Staal's wide-open rebound net---one that left Staal on one knee staring down at the ice in disbelief.
However with eight minutes to play in the third period the Rangers did get that all-important second goal. Skating on the power play, with Steve Bernier in the box for having boarded Girardi at 10:29, Kreider ripped a shot past Brodeur for his third post-season goal, and followed by vaulting himself into the glass behind the net in celebration as The Garden crowd erupted in a deafening roar.
Anisimov closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:27 to play.
After a pretty strong start to the game, the Rangers struggled in the second period against a very effective Devils forecheck. But some timely shotblocking and the great goaltending of Lundqvist helped the Rangers reach the second intermission in a scoreless tie.
The Rangers blocked 18 shots over the first two periods---four by Staal---to somewhat negate how much the Devils controlled the puck in the offensive zone during the middle stanza. Under heavy attack the Rangers became sloppy with the puck---turning it over and failing to clear on numerous occasions---but when push came to shoe a Blueshirt stick or skate was bound to get in the way. And if not that, then an extremely sharp Lundqvist was there to turn the Devils away.
Lundqvist was at his best late in the second period during a Rangers power play when he made three consecutive saves on Zach Parise by the left post---one better than the last.
Interestingly two of the Rangers best scoring chances over the first 40 minutes came while shorthanded. In the first period Ryan Callahan led a 2-on-1 with Brian Boyle after a steal at the Rangers blueline, and his centering pass was deflected perfectly on goal by Boyle, but Brodeur made a sharp pad save. Then in the second period Boyle had another solid scoring chance shorthanded, but, again, he was denied by Brodeur, who had 18 saves through two periods.