NY Sports Day

Ranger Repeat: Blueshirts Follow Game 1 Blueprint to 2-1 Series Lead

When things go wrong, sometimes the wisest course of action is to go back to square one.
 
For the New York Rangers, it was best to return to Game 1.
 
After allowing the New Jersey Devils to even the NHL Eastern Conference finals in Game 2, the Rangers copied a formula in Game 3 that worked well for them in their previous win against the Devils.
 
Just as in Game 1 of the series, top-seeded New York battled sixth-seeded New Jersey to a scoreless tie through two periods before third-period goals from defenseman Dan Girardi and rookie center Chris Kreider and a late empty-net goal gave the Rangers a 3-0 win and a 2-1 lead in the Atlantic division rivals’ best-of-seven clash.
 
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant once again while posting his sixth career postseason shutout, his league-leading third of this year’s playoffs, and the second of the Eastern finals, even while being tested 15 more times than he was in his Game 1 blanking of the Devils.
 
That’s exactly how many more shots New Jersey had than New York on Saturday afternoon at The Prudential Center, but Lundqvist stopped 36 shots to frustrate the Devils, who failed to score despite being set up with five of the game’s seven power plays and outshooting the Rangers in each period – including a six-shot advantage held by New Jersey in each of the first two periods.
 
Although the 30-year-old Lundqvist, in his seventh season (all with New York), has already had a tremendous career in his own right, he still has a while to go to begin to match the accomplishments of his series counterpart, 40-year-old Martin Brodeur (19 saves), who while possessing the all-time league records for most career wins (more than twice as many as Lundqvist) and most playoff shutouts (four times as many as Lundqvist), played in his 100th career home playoff game on Saturday while seeking his fourth Stanley Cup championship before Lundqvist wins his first.
 
Yet, Lundqvist is as big a reason as any that it’s the Rangers – not the Devils – who are halfway to winning the series.
 
A couple of great stick deflections in Game 2 were the only things that kept Lundqvist from allowing just a single goal through the first three games of the series. In contrast, Brodeur, even with his acrobatic “scorpion” save (with his right skate, while lying on his stomach, to help secure New Jersey’s Game 2 victory), has yet to get through a game in the series in which he hasn’t allowed multiple goals.
 
While Brodeur has a very respectable 2.00 goals against average in the series, it’s twice that of Lundqvist’s stellar 1.00 average, as Brodeur has given up six goals to Lundqvist’s three.
 
Unlike a more even 0-0 tie going into the final period in Game 1, the Devils controlled much of the play and continually had the better scoring chances over the first two frames in Game 3, with Lundqvist turning New Jersey aside each time.
 
Based on that, the Devils appeared to become the team to finally break through first, but just as in Game 1, it was Girardi who broke the ice with an early third-period goal.
 
A faceoff from the left circle squirted free to Girardi (one goal), who was left alone from just outside the right circle to blast a slap shot low and to Brodeur’s right to make defenseman Bryce Salvador pay for a hooking penalty that was drawn by right winger Marian Gaborik (no points). The game’s only power play goal, coming 3:19 into the final period, was the first score of the contest and enough for Lundqvist to best Brodeur and New Jersey.
 
Remarkably, it was the third time in this year’s playoffs – and the second occasion in the series – that the previously rare goal scorer notched what proved to be a game-winning shot. Prior to the first round, Girardi, in his sixth season (all with New York), had recorded only 29 regular season goals and no postseason scores.
 
Kreider (one goal), another formerly unexpected scorer, gave the Rangers some insurance when he deflected a shot by defenseman Ryan McDonagh (one assist) past Brodeur just 1:57 after Girardi’s goal, to increase New York’s lead to 2-0. The score was Kreider’s fifth of the playoffs, putting him just one behind center Brad Richards for the team postseason lead this year, even though the still green Kreider only made his NHL debut during Game 3 of the Rangers’ opening round series with Ottawa last month.
 
The Girardi-Kreider scoring combination hearkened back to Game 1, when Girardi broke scoreless tie with a goal 53 seconds into the third period and Kreider scored New York’s second goal of that victory with eight minutes left.
 
And, just as an empty-net goal provided a 3-0 final score in that game, right winger Ryan Callahan scored his fourth goal of the postseason into an empty net with 2:13 left on Saturday, to close the scoring and cap a devil of an exasperating day for New Jersey.
 
Consistent with their usual approach, the Rangers hit the Devils early and often, notching 23 of the game’s 38 hits, with most of that disparity (13-6) coming in the opening period.  
 
However, the biggest hit absorbed by New Jersey was in losing its first home game of the series, a defeat that just about makes Game 4, to be played in Newark on Monday night, at 8pm ET, a must win for the Devils.
 


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