The star of the game was none other than King Henrik Lundqvist, who blanked the Devils and preserved what was a scoreless game through more than two periods of action.
One sequence in particular was noteworthy. With the Rangers on the power play late in the second period, Zach Parise got several fantastic shorthanded looks, and Lundqvist turned away three quick shots in succession. All told, Lundqvist made 21 saves on the evening.
Martin Brodeur certainly didn't play poorly in net. He stopped 25 of 27 shots, including a leaping, backhanded glove save which prevented what looked to be an easy goal from Rangers defender Marc Staal.
However, the Rangers took the lead less than a minute into the third on a Dan Girardi blast, his second of the postseason. Stud youngster Chris Kreider - out of coach John Tortorella's doghouse and back onto a top line where he belongs - got the puck deep and then sent it back to the blue line to Girardi, who was streaking in uncovered after jumping off the bench. With a full head of steam he sent a shot past Brodeur and into the back of the net.
About 10 minutes later, Kreider struck again. This time he did the scoring, his third of the playoffs, sneaking a quick shot past Brodeur on the power play. Artem Anisimov finished things off with an empty netter, good for his third postseason goal.
It was the exact kind of performance and outcome you'd want to begin an important playoffs series, but beyond that, it was even more notable for several additional reasons.
The Rangers looked tired throughout the first two periods, playing just 48 hours after clinching Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, whereas the Devils had an extra three days of rest. But they found a way to pull out the crucial victory and gain the edge in the series against their longtime rivals.
Further, it was only the fifth time this postseason, out of 15 contests, that the Rangers scored three or more goals. It was only the third game the Rangers won this postseason, out of nine, which was by more than one goal, and only their fourth game overall which was decided by more than one tally. The 3-0 margin broke a six game streak of games being decided by one goal.
The Game 1 victory was also Lundqvist's second shutout of the postseason, and fifth career playoff shutout victory. He now leads all eligible playoff goalies with a 1.57 GAA. Including the regular season, he's now 24-7-5 against Brodeur in head to head meetings, and he's 26-11-5 overall against the Devils.
Game 2 will be at the Garden on Wednesday night, as the Rangers look to extend their lead and make things easy on themselves for a change.
Sources: NHL.com, Rangers.NHL.com, BlueShirtsUnited.com
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