Chris Kreider scored and Henrik Lundqvist earned a shutout in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
THN’s Take: The prevalence of shot-blocking and dip in scoring as these playoffs progress has some pundits (not this one) up in arms and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final likely did nothing to quell the anti-block movement’s concerns. The Rangers were outplayed for two periods, but blocked so many pucks (26) they actually outshot the Devils 27-21 and found their legs in time to solve Martin Brodeur, once via Dan Girardi slapper and once via Chris Kreider wrister, before Artem Anisimov’s empty-netter clinched the ‘W.’
The victory was a microcosm of the Rangers’ post-season to date. They’ve often looked like the inferior team, back on their heels, and used their collapsing defense to weather an opponent’s storm until finding a way to win with clutch scoring. They did it to Ottawa. They did it to Washington. They did it to New Jersey in Game 1.
Most alarming for the Devils: they couldn’t capitalize on a New York team that was clearly exhausted following its Game 7 win over Washington on Saturday. The going will be tougher in Game 2 when the Blueshirts are better rested. New Jersey must find a way to solve the thoroughbred defensive quartet of Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal, not to mention goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
1. Dan Girardi – One of the easier first star selections of the playoffs. Apparently Girardi spent Sunday watching Rocky and Rudy. He absorbed vicious punishment time and again, whether he was blocking shots or eating hits. He crumpled to a heap in pain multiple times only to pull himself up. He scored the game-winner and made a nice first pass eventually leading to Kreider’s insurance marker. He finished with a goal, an assist, five blocks and three hits over 25-plus minutes. Inspiring stuff.
2. Henrik Lundqvist – It wasn’t the flashiest shutout we’ve ever seen, but the kind of poise and sound lateral movement King Henrik showed in Game 1 instills more confidence in a team than a frantic style anyway. Henrik slid across to deny Ilya Kovalchuk on a one-timer with the score 1-0 and did a good job finding pucks through traffic.
3. Ryan McDonagh – If Girardi was the obvious hero, McDonagh was the unsung hero. We saw New York become a different team once it got the lead. If not for McDonagh, though, the Rangers may have started the game down 1-0 or 2-0. He chased Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk down on separate partial breakaways in the first period, denying Parise of a shot and forcing Kovalchuk to his backhand. If you had any questions about McDonagh’s speed, he just answered ’em.
The Black Hole: Midway through the third period, the Devils needed to get desperate on offense. Instead, thanks to Steve Bernier riding Girardi head-first into the boards, they had to kill a penalty at the worst possible time. When Kreider converted the Ranger power play on a deceptive, Sakic-like wrister, he cemented Bernier’s goat status.
- Matt Larkin