Rangers Dominate late to take Game 1
The New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils squared off last night in Game 1 in a best of seven Eastern Conference Finals series. These two teams have one of the most diehard rivalries in all of sports, let alone hockey. Perhaps the proximity between Rangers and Devils fans are what really makes this rivalry boiling. Regardless of why the teams and fans despise one another, last night started another chapter to the intense rivalry.
Rangers fans might remember beating the Devils in 2008, four games to one in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. However, the Devils were the last team to sweep the opposition in this rivalry, dating back to the 2006 Quarterfinals. The Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist in net, showed why they are ranked the number one team in the Eastern Conference, shutting out the Devils for a 3-0 final.
The first period consisted of the two teams feeling each other out. There were a few chances however, Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur, both future hall of famers, were stone cold in the first two periods. Both goaltenders had shutouts going into the final frame, which is surprising considering how many penalties were taken.
In the first two periods, the Devils took three penalties alone, with a fourth coming in the third period. The Rangers also finished with four penalties, but two were in the third period. Brodeur had to play amazing to keep the Rangers from scoring during those penalty kills in the first two periods. Unfortunately for the Devils, the flood gates opened in the third period.
Lundqvist continually shows why he is the only goaltender finalist for the Hart Trophy. Last night marked Lundqvist's 5th career shutout in the post-season, stopping all 21 shots faced. The Devils clearly have some adjustments to be made.
"Danny [Girardi] has made some big plays, not just [last night], but all the way through the playoffs." said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. Girardi has been key to the success of the Rangers in the post season with his defensive as well as offensive play.
> Find a nice selection of NHL Team merchandise here at ProHockey-Fans.com!
Girardi, a 6'1" Canadian defenseman, has been one of the best defenseman in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only did he have to help shut down the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza on the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Girardi also has contributed his stick on offense as well. Girardi was the man to break the dead lock last night in the third period, for his second goal of the postseason.
"I thought the team to score first [last night] was going to win." said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer after the game. Sure enough, Girardi got the Rangers the first goal within the first minute of the third period. About 10 minutes after the Rangers got their first tally of the night, Steve Bernier of the Devils got a penalty for boarding.
The boarding penalty on Bernier led to the rookie, Chris Kreider getting his third goal of the postseason off of a nice passing play by Girardi and Artem Anisimov. Because of the two goal deficit the Devils were facing, DeBoer elected to pull Brodeur earlier than normal. Pulling the goaltender is a desperation move that usually fails and in this case, the Rangers were able to capitalize on the empty net. Anisimov was able to get his third goal of the postseason with 1:33 left to play.
The Rangers are 8-3 all-time in playoff series started with a shutout win. They also boast a 32-11 series record when winning the first game of a playoff series. Also, the Rangers have won seven of their last eight series when winning the first game.
Needless to say, the Devils need to try and win Game 2 to make the series even at one before the two games in Newark, NJ. However, with the Rangers playing the way they are, there might not be a team in the Eastern Conference that could beat them right now.
By: Stephen London
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer