Rangers special teams shines in Game 1 rout of Devils, 5-1

Rangers special teams shine in 5-1 win
New Jersey Devils’ Jack Hughes, right, tries to get up after sliding into New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin during the second period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photos

NEWARK — Special teams can be a deciding factor when determining who moves on in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Rangers showed why on Tuesday night. 

Thanks to two powerplay goals and four successful penalty kills, the Blueshirts took Game 1 of their first-round series against the rival Devils, 5-1. The meeting was the first postseason game between the Metropolitan Division rivals since Zach Parise sent the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals back on May 25, 2012.

“We had some big kills early and getting the first one settled everyone down a little bit. I thought we played the right way and got rewarded for it,” Adam Fox explained after the win. 

This is the seventh time in which the two clubs have met in the postseason and the fourth occasion that they’ve done battle in the first round.

New York took advantage of the wide-eyed Devils early in the first period. On a broken play in the offensive zone, K’Andre Miller found Vladimir Tarasenko for the latter’s 42nd career playoff goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

The accolades continued for the Blueshirts later in the period when Chris Kreider deflected a power-play pass from Adam Fox to gain the 2-0 advantage. For Kreider, the first-period goal put him atop the Rangers’ history books for playoff goals with the 35th of his career.

“He’s been great for me for two years. Kreids is a big-time player. To get those two goals on the powerplay tonight, he works in that deflected pucks and that area all the time. So he just keeps doing it and it’s important for our group,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said of Kreider’s performance. 

Even with New Jersey starting the second period out fast, they couldn’t solve the former Vezina-winning goaltender making his 22nd start. Igor Shesterkin kept the Devil’s high-powered offense at bay to the tune of 27 saves and a .964% save percentage. The netminder was aided late in the second thanks to Ryan Lindgren netting the third playoff goal of his career and giving New York a 3-0 advantage after two. 

“I saw him coming down and I know he sometimes tries to flick it up there. He saves his goals for this time of year, and when he’s able to contribute like that, it’s huge for everything else he does,” Fox smiled when asked about his linemate. 

Lindgren’s score came after the Rangers’ second power-play goal of the night was overturned after a replay review found that Alexis Lafreniere used a high stick to tip the puck past Vitek Vanecek. 

It wasn’t just New York’s powerplay that made the difference either though. New Jersey failed to record a shot in their four powerplay opportunities earned on the night, which resulted from a combination of tough giveaways and solid defense from the Rangers. 

“It was good to see but at the same time, we don’t want to kill that many penalties. We’ll try to stay out of the box a little bit more, especially to start a game like that, it’s hard to get the group in a flow. Staying out of the box allows us to do what we do five on five and roll four lines,” Kreider explained. 

Even with Jack Hughes ending the shutout late in the final period, New York tallied another powerplay goal (that counted) courtesy of Kreider, and an empty-net score from Chytil was more than enough for the Rangers to coast to victory. 

With a 1-0 series lead now, the Rangers and Devils will be back at the Prudential Center for Game Two on Thursday night. 

Game Notes

  • While this is the seventh postseason showdown of the Battle of the Hudson River, the Rangers have had the edge in the overall series 4-2 with their latest series win coming in the 2008 Conference Quarterfinals. 
  • Tarasenko’s first-period goal left him tied with Alex Ovechkin for fourth on the playoff scoring list since 2013. 
  • Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin both recorded multiple assists in the Game One victory. For Fox, it was the 22nd assists in 24 playoff games for the young defenseman – the second-fewest games by a defenseman in NHL history.
  • Kreider’s powerplay goal didn’t just have him stand alone amongst the Rangers’ scoring list, but he also passed  Adam Graves for the most playoff power-play goals in franchise history with 14.

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