The New York Rangers outlasted the New Jersey Devils, breaking open a defensive struggle with three third period goals to take Game One of the Eastern Conference Final, 1-0.
Defenceman Dan Girardi was a force for the Rangers, scoring the game's first goal, adding an assist on the second and leading all skaters with 25:11 of ice time. His five blocked shots tied teammate Marc Staal for the game-high.
It has been a productive playoff year for Girardi, who now has nine points in 15 games, after scoring 29 in 82 regular-season contests.
Rookie winger Chris Kreider was also a significant factor for the Rangers in the third period, first setting up Girardi's goal, then scoring the insurance marker with eight minutes left. Kreider hadn't recorded a point in six games before his multi-point contribution Monday.
Certainly Girardi and Kreider are deserving of praise, but the Rangers also got a typically strong performance in goal from Henrik Lundqvist, who earned a 21-save shutout. He only faced four shots in the third period, but his play in the first two periods put the Rangers in position to capture the win in the third.
Rangers LW Artem Anisimov now has eight points in the playoffs after putting up the empty-net goal, to go with an assist. Anisimov's ice time has been spotty throughout the playoffs, but he has played at least 13 minutes in each of the last six games, after not playing 12 minutes in any of the five preceeding games.
Devils C Patrik Elias was minus-2 in the game (as were D Marek Zidlicky and LW Zach Parise) and it draws some attention to Elias' struggles in the postseason. After scoring 78 points during the regular season -- tying 2008-2009 for his most in a season since 2003-2004 -- Elias has managed five points in 13 playoff games and facing a matchup against the Rangers' defence pairing of Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, as he did Monday night, isn't going to make it any easier for Elias to accumulate points.
The Devils held a territorial edge in the game, which the Rangers negated by blocking 26 shots and that was before factoring in goaltending, the one area in which the Blueshirts entered the series with a clear edge and the Rangers used their grind-it-out defensive style and strong goaltending to take the first game of the series, which probably means more of the same as the series progresses.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.