New York, NY – Henrik Lundqvist posted 21 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs and the New York Rangers took a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of these Eastern Conference Finals.
Artem Anisimov, Chris Kreider and Dan Girardi each posted a goal and an assist for the Rangers, who needed seven games to defeat the Senators in the first round and then needed seven games to take down the Capitals in the second round to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1997.
"I think this is going to be our toughest series yet," said Lundqvist. "It's going to be tight out there and it will be a big battle. I don't know how many games this is going to go, but it's going to be good."
Martin Brodeur turned aside 25-of-27 shots for the Devils, who defeated the Panthers in seven games in the opening round then took down the Flyers in five games in the second round to make the conference finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 2003.
This series is a rematch of the 1994 conference finals, which the Rangers won in seven games before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
The game had passed scoreless through the first 40 minutes, but it took the Rangers just 53 seconds into the third to take the lead.
Kreider stopped at the right circle and eventually sent a pass back to the point. From there, Girardi blasted a big shot through a screen for his second goal of the playoffs.
Less than two minutes later, Lundqvist made the lead stand as he stopped a one-timer from Ilya Kovalchuk at the left circle.
Skating on the power play, the Rangers padded their lead with eight minutes left. Anisimov sent a backhand pass to the slot as soon as he gained the zone and Kreider used a quick shot to beat Brodeur to the right side of the net.
"Once they got the first one we had to open things up a bit and they were able to take advantage," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "We can't get frustrated by something we expected to happen. They play good defense over there and we have to find a way to counter that."
New Jersey yanked Brodeur for the extra attacker with roughly two minutes to play, but Anisimov put the puck into the open net with 1:27 remaining to seal the win.
"We just kept to our game plan and stuck with it," said New York head coach John Tortorella. "Our whole team skated well tonight and we got some big plays when we needed them."
Neither team scored in the first period and New York outshot New Jersey, 8-6, but it was the Devils with the better chances as Lundqvist made a terrific glove stop on an Adam Henrique shot with 12:21 left in the frame and stopped an Ilya Kovalchuk backhander on the fly with about nine minutes left in the first.
New York's best chance of the opening period came five minutes in when Marian Gaborik tipped a pass on net from the left circle that Brodeur was able to keep out.
Henrique had a couple of chances down low about two minutes into the second, but Lundqvist turned both chances away.
The two goaltenders combined to make 21 saves in the second period, with Lundqvist turning aside 11, to keep the game scoreless after 40 minutes.
For the Rangers, this was their first win in the Eastern finals since a 5-4 decision at Philadelphia in Game 2 of that series on May 18, 1997...It was the Blueshirts' first home ECF victory since May 27, 1994, a 2-1 double-overtime triumph over the Devils in Game 7 thanks to Stephane Matteau...New York has won four of the five previous playoff series between these two teams...Lundqvist has five playoff shutouts in his career...New York went 1- for-4 on the power play while New Jersey was 0-for-4...Girardi and Michael Del Zotto, who had an assist in the game for New York, led all defenseman in playoff points with nine.