NEW YORK – There was no thud this time. No letdown or nervousness.
Rather what you saw tonight at Madison Square Garden was a confident Ranger team and one that knows it takes 16 wins to get the Stanley Cup, and no matter what they did tonight, they would only get one.
“Big plays at key time,” said coach John Tortorella after the Rangers 4-2 win in Game 1. “We got a big goal from Brian Boyle. He’s in good defensive position, the puck comes to him and he scores a big goal. I thought a number of guys, not just the big guys, but I thought a number of guys contributed. We didn’t lose ourselves. We were forechecked pretty good, they pinched hard, they had us bottled up, but we stayed within ourselves and found our game, the way we play. We found a way.”
And the way they found was the Ranger formula all season. They found opportune scoring from their big guns, but really relied upon Henrik Lundqvist to save them when they needed to be saved.
The King reigned in the first and early in the second when the team held onto a 1-0 lead thanks to Captain Ryan Callahan. But Rangers mistakes of icing the puck were erased by Lundqvist until Marion Gaborik and Boyle put two up on the Senators late in the second after Tortorella called a time out to calm his team down.
“We have trust in everyone, not just (Lundqvist),” Boyle said. “Obviously, he’s been phenomenal for us throughout the whole year, but it goes down the line. We have great leadership and great rookies that have bought in. Right down the lineup, we trust each other and we know that that everyone is going to put it on the line for us, so I just try and do the same.”
Then early in the third Richards made it 4-0 and enough for the Rangers to hold off two late Ottawa goals to gain their first home Game 1 win since the second round in 1995 against the Washington Capitals.
With this kind of play, it easy to see why the Garden Faithful were chanting, ”We want the Cup!” all throughout the game. And why the Rangers had the easiest time of any team winning Game 1.
But of course, the Blueshirts will have to continue this strong play, because as we saw tonight Ottawa won’t just lay down and die.
“There’s going to be surges throughout game, throughout a series, throughout the game there’s going to be momentum swings and I think the team that wins is the team that handles them the best,” Callahan said. “Hank made some big saves during that and gives us a chance to make it 2-0.”
A 2-0 lead before going on the road. That would be nice, but the Rangers will have to tighten up some of the play before that happens. They need to be sharper with the puck and not cause so many icings, which gave the Senators their chances.
“We don’t want to rely on Hank for that amount of time all at once,” Richards said. “We got right back on track at the end of the second. It was probably a turning point right there.”
And that’s one down and 15 more to go.