The New York Rangers celebrate a third-period goal as Mark Fayne of the New Jersey Devils skates away in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via 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.
RANGERS-DEVILS, GAME 3: RANGERS 3, DEVILS 0 (RANGERS LEAD SERIES 2-1)
THN’s TAKE: In case you weren’t aware of how the New York Rangers win hockey games, the Blueshirts were happy to underscore the pattern in their 3-0 Game 3 road victory over the New Jersey Devils: they got incredible goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, decisively out-shot-blocked the opposition and weathered a furious offensive attack by Ilya Kovalchuk & Co. for the early part of the game, then squeezed out enough offense late in regulation time to walk away with a 2-1 series advantage.
The Rangers were out-shot by the Devils in all three periods (including by an 11-5 margin in the opening frame), but Lundqvist was brilliant, especially on a stupendous glove save he made against Kovalchuk on a breakaway. New Jersey easily could have taken a two-or-three-goal advantage into the third period. Instead – in large part to New York out-blocking them 19-6 – the game was scoreless until Dan Girardi beat Martin Brodeur cleanly early in the third.
When rookie Chris Kreider tipped in a Ryan McDonagh shot just 1:57 after Girardi scored, the Rangers had more than enough to hold off the home side and reclaim home ice advantage. But it was Lundqvist and Lundqvist alone who put the Blueshirts in a position to win. If he can continue his dominance, it could be a quicker Eastern Conference Final than many expected.
Henrik Lundqvist – The Swedish star posted his third post-season shutout while raising his playoff save percentage to .942 and lowering his goals-against average to 1.57. Lundqvist’s continued calm in the face of the Devils’ fast start led to him stealing Game 3 out of the better team’s hands – and that’s exactly what big-money netminders are supposed to do at this time of year.
Dan Girardi – New York’s expert stay-at-home defenseman had five goals in 82 regular-season games this year. After Game 3 of the Eastern final, he now has three goals – all of them game-winners – in the playoffs. He also played a game-high 7:29 of penalty kill time. He and blueline partner Ryan McDonagh (who chipped in an assist and a game-best four blocked shots) combined to play 55:42 of virtually flawless hockey.
Martin Brodeur – The future Hockey Hall of Famer made several spectacular saves to try and mitigate the advantage Lundqvist was giving the visitors, but Brodeur got zero support from his teammates. The 40-year-old deserved better.
The Black Hole: The Devils’ power play was Game 3’s Black Hole. It had five opportunities in which to score, yet not only could it not, it barely averaged one shot per man advantage (six shots in total). Kovalchuk (who played 9:54 with the extra man), Zach Parise (6:42), Travis Zajac (6:02) and Marek Zidlicky (6:16) need to get back to the form that made New Jersey’s power play (which after the game still had an 18.2 percent success rate) formidable.