Executing on the Power Play and Penalty Kill can go a long way toward being successful in the playoffs, and the Rangers wasted no time establishing both of their lethal units.
Five minutes after Tarasenko gave the Rangers an early lead, Chris Kreider doubled it by tipping an Adam Fox shot from the point on the power play for his 35th career playoff goal to become the franchise’s all-time leader.
That was enough for the Rangers’ penalty kill, who held the Devils without a shot in their four power-play attempts. They blocked shots, got sticks in lanes, neutralized the Devils’ trademark speed with their physicality, and were more aggressive on the forecheck. The Devils wingers rarely had time to set up.
“That’s what happens in playoffs, you dig deep,” said Barclay Goodrow, who, along with linemates Tyler Motte and Jimmy Vesey, played a crucial role in the Blueshirts’ defensive efforts as the trio combined for seven blocked shots.”They’re a highly skilled team that can create much if you let them. Did a pretty good executing our game plan.”
Part of the game plan was to contain Jack Hughes, who set a Devils franchise record with 99 points during the regular season and earned high praise from his idol, Patrick Kane, before the game. “I think he does some things better than I did at that age(21),” Kane said. “I think he’s a better overall skater.”
Hughes dazzled in his playoff debut. He used his shiftiness to carve up the Rangers’ defense several times for quality scoring chances.
But New York didn’t make it easy on the kid. Hughes was knocked down a few times, saw several shot attempts blocked, and was charged with five turnovers.
“I was really happy with how they competed and did the little things to win hockey games,” Gallant said when asked about the Rangers’ penalty kill, which largely contributed to the team’s 23 blocks. The tally ironically equaled the number of shots they had on goal.
New York didn’t test the Devils in their zone often but made it count when they did. The Blueshirts made it 3-0 late in the second period when defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who scored once all regular season, received a pass from Adam Fox and, from the side of the net, lifted the puck over Vanecek’s shoulder. “That was crazy. That was a really pretty goal”, Kreider said. “I jumped two feet in the air after that.” “I didn’t think he could make a shot higher than knee,” Shesterkin joked.
The goal took away any momentum New Jersey might’ve had from an Alexis Lafrenière tally being called back less than a minute earlier because of a high stick.
At the 11:07 mark of the third, Kreider gave fans another chance to jump with him, tipping another Fox shot for his second power-play goal of the night, extending the Rangers’ lead to 4-0.
From there, it was all about goaltending.