The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
DEVILS/RANGERS, GAME 2: DEVILS 3, RANGERS 2 (SERIES TIED 1-1)
THN’s Take: John Tortorella must’ve tossed more than a few colorful metaphors at his players following New York’s sloppy 3-2 loss to New Jersey. All the talk after Game 1 was about the blue-collar Blueshirts and their shin pad savvy, having blocked more shots (26) than the Devils got through (21) the gang of foot soldiers surrounding Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers did do more of the same Wednesday night, blocking 16, but Game 2 was more about gaffes than New York’s garrisoning.
Every goal had its goat. There was Derek Stepan failing to clear the puck before Ilya Kovalchuk’s wrister to open the scoring, Martin Brodeur knocking the puck into the net with his glove hand on the equalizer, Travis Zajac’s interference penalty leading to Chris Kreider’s goal and Marian Gaborik’s botched attempt to get out of the defensive zone along the boards on New Jersey’s second goal. Then there was Stu Bickel’s ill-advised backhand around the boards that gave possession back to the Devils, which eventually led to the game-winner.
Credit New Jersey, though, for not getting frustrated over New York’s effective, if maddening, shot-blocking strategy. The Devils stuck to the game plan that had them outplaying the Rangers through the first 40 minutes of Game 1 and kept firing shots at Lundqvist, getting perfect tip ins from Ryan Carter and David Clarkson. In total, New Jersey directed 59 shots (missed, blocked or saved) at the Rangers goal.
The way to beat the Rangers is simple (well, simply stated): score first. The Devils did just that and the Blueshirts had to open up their game, at least a little. New York is now 8-2 when scoring first, but 1-5 when not. New Jersey is 5-2 after opening the scoring, 4-3 if scored upon first.
Both teams now find themselves in a familiar position after splitting the opening pair of games in all their playoff series thus far. The Rangers are 0-6 in games in which they’re leading in a series.
Still, the Devils must be wondering where their penalty-killing prowess went this post-season. The regular season’s top man-advantage unit (89.6 percent) has disappeared, dropping below 72 percent, 14th in the playoffs and last among the four finalists. Meanwhile, the Rangers power play has found at least a modicum of its mojo with a pair of goals Wednesday and three now in the series.
(Of note: Has there been a sexier stop in these playoffs than Martin Brodeur’s Hail Mary scorpion save on Marian Gaborik early in the second period?)
1. Ilya Kovalchuk: Continues to solidify his status as the league’s most electric Russian player with his sixth goal of the playoffs.
2. Bryce Salvador: New Jersey’s stay-at-home defenseman continues his playoff renaissance with a pair of assists in 23:26 minutes of ice time, tops on the team.
3. Marc Staal: New York’s burly blueliner logged a game high 27:26 minutes.
Black Hole: Michael Del Zotto. Save for Staal, the Rangers ‘D’ was subpar for its high standards, but Del Zotto was the worst of the bunch, going minus-2 on the evening.
– Ronnie Shuker