Blue Notes

Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.

Rangers take Game 1, 4-2. A recap and the post-game Xtra

After their 4-2 victory over the Senators in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers talk about the keys to the game. Videojournalists: Matthew Golub & Jim Mancari (April 12, 2012)

           For Rangers fans, a satisfying win. But this series is a long way from over. In fact, I believe Game 2 will be closer, maybe overtime.  My report:
 
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            In the Stanley Cup playoffs, teams need difference-makers and big plays. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was that tonight, stopping 30 shots by the Ottawa Senators and the Blueshirts scored two goals in 1:42 late in the second period as they captured Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 4-2.
               In front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, Lundqvist made 13 saves in the first period and another 11 in the second as the Rangers surged to a 3-0 lead on even-strength goals by Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle in the first 40 minutes. Brad Richards added the fourth when Carl Hagelin, forechecking hard, stole the puck from Nick Foligno behind the net and found Richards in front at 2:15. 
              “If you take away those six minutes, we are pretty happy with how we played,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean.  Game 2 in the first-ever best-of-seven series between the two clubs is Saturday.
                After finishing the regular season with a career-best 39 wins and 1.97 goals against average, Lundqvist stepped up against the potent Senators, especially when the Rangers were sagging in the second while trying to protect a 1-0 lead.
               Lundqvist made four saves as the Rangers lost a little control, and John Tortorella called a timeout at 9:51. “We were hemmed in for a bit, in our end a while and Hank made a few big saves. It gave us a second to calm down and get ourselves going the other way,” said Dan Girardi.
               “We don’t want to rely on Hank for that amount of time all at once,” said Richards. “We got right back on track at the end of the second. It was probably a turning point right there.”  
                 The Rangers, continuing to execute the grinding style that carried them to the top of the East, also held the Senators to three shots on three power plays. The physical play picked up as the game went on, and the momentum really shifted after Stu Bickel nailed Milan Michalek from behind with a crosscheck at 15:13. But Filip Kuba elbowed Brandon Prust after a shorthanded rush, and Boyle tangled with rookie defenseman Erik Karlsson and they both went off 18 seconds later.
              Gaborik’s unassisted goal came at 16:24 with a beautiful move. He darted in from the right circle, stutter-stepped in front to force goaltender Craig Anderson to shift, and fired the puck through the opening between his pads. At 19:06, Boyle swooped in to grab Anisimov’s pass in the slot and beat Anderson as the puck went upper-corner, stick side and appeared to be deflected by Spezza. 
                 Daniel Alfredsson spoiled Lundqvist’s shutout bid with a deflection in front at 10:05 of the third period on the Senators’ 28th shot, and fans responded with a resounding cheer for the Swedish goaltender, clearly the team’s MVP through the season. The Senators, showing their quick-strike capability, cut the lead to two when Erik Condra finished off a 2 on 1 with 2:19 left.
               It was the first playoff series that the Rangers opened at home since the East quarterfinal against the Canadiens in 1996. They won that one and seven of the last 10 first-round series, and the Rangers came out as if they wanted to add another series victory to that record.                   
              When Anton Stralman’s shot was kicked to the lower right circle by Anderson, Callahan spun and slid a shot past his extended left skate for the 1-0 lead at 12:01. Anderson had been 6-0 at the Garden in his career.
              It was the first-year captain’s first playoff goal in three seasons; he missed the last post-season with a broken right ankle and the Blueshirts missed the playoffs the previous season. He also delivered two of his game-high seven hits on Matt Gilroy and Jesse Winchester, in that sequence. Artem Anisimov earned the first of his two assists on the goal.
              “We had contributions from pretty much everyone,” said Boyle. “It’s a grind. That’s the way you have to do it; they came physically and we tried to answer."
 
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                 Artem Anisimov had just one point, a goal, in his six previous NHL playoff games. But in the days leading up to last night’s 4-2 win, in which he doubled that output with two assists in 15:14 and was a plus-2, the 23-year-old Russian forward seemed relaxed.

                “He played really well,” said coach John Tortorella. “One of the better games for him in the last little while. It comes at a good time. His personality, this year, is a more confident personality, he feels more comfortable with himself. He was good in a lot of different areas. ’’

 

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                 The Rangers, who were credited with 20 blocked shots, are 30-11 in playoff series when winning Game One. “It’s a very important first win,” said Marian Gaborik, whose goal was his 14th in the post-season and 25th point in 35 games and continued a productive streak.  In the final eight regular-season games, he had six goals and 10 points. “You have to take advantage of the first couple of home games,” he said. “We have to build on it.”  

 

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              In their playoff debuts, Carl Hagelin and Anton Stralman recorded assists…Brian Boyle’s goal was his first career playoff point…Tortorella cut back to three lines and five defensemen: John Mitchell played a total of 4:59; Mike Rupp, 3:39 (although he had a 10-minute misconduct in the third) and defenseman Stu Bickel, 6:42.

 

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              Tortorella, whose time out at 9:51 of the second settled down a team that was losing the territorial battle, hoped they had “learned a lesson early on” in the series. “You’re not going to play a perfect game. There are going to be times when they’re on top of you and you can’t get straightened up…We didn’t lose ourselves. They pinched hard, had us bottled up, but we found our game, the way we play.”    

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             There's more on Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin from Arthur Staple on newsday.com, so please check it out there and in the paper. Our coverage continues tomorrow at 2 when the Rangers practice.....        

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