Jersey Score, Rangers Take Game 1 against the Devils

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Rangers played one of their most complete games of the season and they couldn’t have picked a better time to do so as they beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-1 in Newark last night to take game one of their best of seven, Eastern Conference first round series.

Chris Kreider scored twice, Adam Fox had four assists, Igor Shesterkin was brilliant in net but Barclay Goodrow was arguably the Rangers’ best player.

In dropping three of four to the Devils during the regular season, the Rangers allowed a number of odd man rushes to a team that thrives on their superior speed. “We were taking care of the puck, not feeding their rush,” Goodrow said. “We can still be better, I don’t think that was our best tonight.”

The Rangers special teams shined as they were 2 for 3 on the power play and 4 for 4 on penalty kill. Much of that PK success was because Goodrow was all over the ice with his tenacious pursuit of the puck.

The two time Stanley Cup winner was credited with 3 of the Rangers’ 23 blocked shots, but it seemed like he did a whole lot more with his leadership.

There’s the guys who are blocking shots like crazy and give us very positive emotions and proud of those guys doing their jobs. It gives you a mental boost, it makes you play harder for those guys when you see how hard they play,“ Vladimir Tarasenko said after the game.

The Rangers penalty kill was put to an early test as they had to kill off two Devils’ power play opportunities in the first 6:09 of the first period. “Two minutes into a game or whatever it was, you’re on a kill that could really change a game, momentum wise and we killed off another one after that,” Fox said. Yeah, it gave us some momentum.”

The Rangers took the momentum from the first kill and Tarasenko got the party started as he scored his first Ranger playoff goal. “Nice to score this fast in the game, you know like first goal in the playoffs for the Rangers,” he said.

Tarasenko fired the puck from the slot past Devils goaltender Vitek Vanacek to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. K’Andre Miller passed it to Tarasenko who scored his 41st playoff goal at 4:58 of the first period. Artemi Panarin added the first of his two assists in the game.

After killing off a second Devils’ man advantage, the Rangers capitalized on their first power play opportunity to make it a 2-0 game.

The Rangers’ longest tenured player won a face off in the offensive zone and got the puck back to Panarin who passed it to Fox. The Rangers defenseman gave Kreider a perfect pass to deflect pass Vanacek for his first goal of the evening and a two goal lead.

The goal was Kreider’s 35th career playoff goal, moving him ahead of Rod Gilbert to become the franchise’s all time playoff goal scorer.

The Devils played much better in the first half of the second period. New Jersey’s Tomas Tatar had a prime scoring chance, but Shesterkin was equal to the task. Tatar was wide open in the slot but Shesterkin had perfect positioning to make a clutch save and keep it a two goal lead.

In the second period, Alexis Lafreniere appeared to have scored the Rangers’ third goal but it was waved off because the Ranger forward knocked the puck in with a high stick.

No matter, as less than a minute later, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who had one regular season goal, scored his first playoff goal this season and the third of his career to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. Fox fed his defensive partner who skated in on Vanacek and beat him top corner. “I saw him coming down and I know he sometimes tries to flick it up there,” Fox said. “He saves his goals for this time of year.”

That was a huge goal because the Devils had momentum after the Lafreniere goal was waved off and it sent the Ranger bench into a frenzy. I think you can tell by our reaction how happy we are for him,” said Goodrow.

In the third, Kreider deflected a second power play goal past Vanacek to give the Rangers a commanding four goal lead.

Fox fired a shot that Kreider was able to get a piece of and put it in for his 14th career playoff power play goal. That power play goal moved him ahead of Adam Graves for first in Rangers’ franchise playoff history.

Shesterkin made 27 saves including some clutch stops in the second and third periods. The only save he failed to make was when the Devils’ Jack Hughes scored on a penalty shot late in the third period. “More often than not, he’s our best player and certainly was tonight,” Kreider said. “When he’s seeing pucks and making saves like that, it instills a lot of confidence in your group.”

That made it a 4-1 game, but after Devils coach Lindy Ruff pulled Vanacek, Filip Chytil put an end to any suspense by firing the puck into the empty net to complete the scoring. Chytil was one of four Rangers, along with Kreider, Fox and Panarin, who had multi point games.

Fox reached 20 assists in 24 playoff games, making him the second fastest defenseman in NHL history to do so (Calgary Flames defenseman Gary Suter reached 20 assists in 23 playoff games). His four assist game tied the Rangers’ playoff record for defenseman.

The kid line of Chytil, Lafreniere and Kappo Kakko played another strong game as they were able to generate some offense when the Devils seemed to be controlling the play.

New Jersey outshot the Rangers 28-23, but the Blueshirts put forth an outstanding defensive effort. They’ll need more of that going forward, but for now, they get to feel good about game one and focus on game two.

They’re going to come back ready to play game two,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Things went our way tonight, we played well, we got a lead early and like I said, I thought we played a good sixty-minute hockey game.”

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