While a win in Game 1 of a series seldom dictate the final result, there’s not many things better than going into New Jersey and coming away with a win in Newark to start the playoffs . The Rangers’ ability to draw first blood/a> does however cancel out the home ice advantage earned by the Devils less than a week ago and give them a 1-0 series lead and the all important momentum.
Three unanswered goals in the third period blew open what was a tight game between the two teams. Ryan Callahan scored the Rangers’ first post season shorthanded goal since 1997, Sean Avery added some insurance and Nigel Dawes received a gift open net from Brendan Shanahan.
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers outdueled Martin Brodeur and the fourth seeded Devils. Lundqvist made several key stops to start the third, and allowed only one goal, a power play goal with one man (Straka) missing a stick.
Scott Gomez also had a big night against his former club. Gomez recorded the primary assist on each of the first three Rangers goals, including setting up the screen on the Shanahan goal after he had found the veteran winger in open ice. Gomez claimed it would be just another game, but the former Devil certainly turned it on in the second and third period.
But perhaps the biggest single play in the game started with the Rangers’ younger players. On the PK, Dan Girardi deked his man in the defensive zone and sprung Scott Gomez down the ice. Gomez eventually passed off to Ryan Callahan who took a shot from a bad angle, but looped around the net to bang in a loose puck.
The play was all the more bizarre when you consider that Martin Brodeur had plenty of time to cover the puck, but appeared to just watch as it slowly bobbled through the crease, allowing Callahan to swat it in. Brodeur claimed he didn’t see Callahan behind the net…which may be true, but hardly a viable excuse.
The goal neutralized the Devils’ momentum and ultimately turned into the game winner for New York. In other words, Brodeur’s blunder probably cost the Devils the game. Still the 4-1 win disquised the fact that these two teams were very evenly matched for much of the game. The Devils hit the post or crossbar four times, and Brian Gionta sent another two prime opportunities wide of the net.
Tom Renney was obviously pleased with the result, but both he and most of the Rangers were subdued about their win in the first ever playoff game in the Prudential Center.
In a strangely titled article from Newsday, the paper reports that the goons took the the night off. Strange when you consider that guys like Colton Orr and the Devils’ Brookbank weren’t dressed. There were no fights, but then again, there weren’t any specialist fighters dressed.
For a further breakdown of some of the key components the game, check out the article from the Star Ledger.
According to reports 25% to 35% of the crowd were Rangers fans, and while there was plenty of chanting back and forth, the two groups tolerated each other relatively well.
Was there any other hockey news last night…a few things.
The Penguins dominated the Senators, getting two goals from Gary Roberts to pace them to a 4-0 game one victory over Ottawa. The Senators failed to mount much offensive pressure and threw away a pretty good game from goaltender Martin Gerber.
Out west, the 6th and 7th seeds upset their higher ranked opponents on the road. The Flames holding onto a 3-2 win thanks to some scrambling defense and a couple of goals by Stephane Yelle, while in what many described as the most exciting game of the night, the Wild battled back from an 0-2 deficit only to lose in OT to a Joe Sakic goal.
More action tonight ahead of the Rangers-Devils Game 2 on Friday.
The NCAA Frozen Four gets under way today, with Carl Hagelin and Michigan taking on CCHA rivals Notre Dame. The game will be on ESPN2 at 6:30pm Eastern. The first semi-final between Boston College and North Dakota will also be on ESPN2, starting at 3:00pm Eastern.