You couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the New York Rangers in Game 1 Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. No, the Rangers didn’t dominate from start to finish, but their offense was solid and their defense weathered the storm when the Senators’ potent offense was controlling the puck. When the defense broke down, Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and the Rangers walked away with a 4-2 opening game victory to lead the best of seven 1-0.
Ryan Callahan opened the scoring in the first period when his turnaround shot found space between the far post and goaltender Craig Anderson‘s pad to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first period.
The Senators responded and applied pressure, but a key timeout by head coach John Tortorella settled the game down for the Rangers. They responded when Marian Gaborik drove to the net and slipped the puck between Anderson’s legs to give the Rangers a 2-0 with 3:36 left. Brian Boyle added to that lead when he fired a loose puck over Anderson’s shoulder to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead with 54 seconds left in the middle period.
Brad Richards closed the scoring minutes into the third period, converting off a pass from Carl Hagelin after he stripped a Senators defenseman of the puck to make it 4-0.
Daniel Alfredsson broke Lundqvist’s shutout bid with 9:55 left, and Erik Condra cut the lead to 4-2 with 2:19 left.
- The biggest questions many had going into Game 1 is whether or not the Rangers could contain the Senators’ offense. The question was answered. As I said, when the defense wasn’t spectacular, Lundqvist came up big. The Senators got two goals at the end, but it didn’t matter at all.
- Lundqvist has to be the team’s best player, and he was close tonight. He stepped up after a very poor performance in the regular season finale. If he plays like this the rest of the way, the Rangers will be a difficult team to beat.
- I say Lundqvist was the second best player because the best was Callahan, who not only scored, he was hitting everything with a red jersey on, including crushing former Ranger Matt Gilroy in the first period. His performance tonight was what the team was missing last year when he was injured.
- Pundits questioned if Gaborik and Richards could continue their success in the playoffs. Questioned answered.
- Artem Anisimov had a great game, as did Boyle and even Brandon Dubinsky. He was tough to take off the puck and nearly had a goal in the third. Would like to see some offense from him, but I’d be happy to see him play like that every night.
- How bad was the officiating tonight. Some of those calls and then non-calls and icings were just brutal in the first two periods.
- I thought Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman played strong in their playoff debuts.
- How good was the penalty kill? Obviously you’d like to see them limit the opportunities, but couldn’t ask them to perform better than they did.
- Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi played great shutdown against the Jason Spezza line. Marc Staal also had a strong game.
- Off tomorrow and we’re back Saturday to see the Rangers look to go up 2-0.
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