Momentum in the Stanley Cup playoffs can shift quickly, like waves in a bad storm. In Game 1, the Rangers played their brand of hockey to walk away with a 3-0 victory. In Game 2, the Devils controlled most of the game. The Rangers looked completely worn down by the 3rd period en route to the Devils tying the series at 1. Game 3 could have gone in any number of directions, but one way it wasn’t going was behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
New Jersey owned the Rangers for the first two periods today. The Devils outshot the Rangers 26-14 through the first two frames. While the Rangers created a few strong scoring opportunities, it was Lundqvist who withstood the barrage to keep the Rangers in the game. Even though the Devils had the distinct edge in shots, the momentum started to shift midway through the 2nd period. The effective Rangers Penalty Kill denied the Devils two power play opportunities within 5 minutes of one another. The Rangers seemed to feed off of this, and were able to keep the puck in the Devils end of the rink for the remaining portion of the period.
The Rangers PK was 3 for 3, but New York’s power play whiffed on their one opportunity of the game in the 1st period. A Bryce Salvador hook on Marian Gaborik gave the PP unit a second chance. The Blueshirts converted with the man advantage, courtesy of a Dan Girardi snap shot from Brad Richards. Two minutes later, Chris Kreider scored his 5th goal of the playoffs (from McDonagh and Callahan) to give New York a two goal cushion. After that, the Rangers looked very confident and comfortable. Ryan Callahan would add an empty-netter (from Boyle and Fedotenko) after making a key block on a late Ilya Kovalchuk shot to seal the game. The win snaps the Devils four game home losing streak. This is also the 3rd straight round where New York has won Games 1 and 3 but lost Game 2.
I’ve heard a few people say that Game 3 mirrored Game 1 for New York, and it’s a valid point. Girardi scored early in the 3rd period in both games, Kreider had the 2nd goal for the Rangers in both games, and Lundqvist earned a shutout. The difference in today’s game was that Lundqvist was the story. He posted a 21 save shutout in Game 1, but had a lot more work to do today. The Devils tested the Rangers netminder plenty (36 saves), including multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes. The difference today was that the Devils weren’t able to create the traffic they did in Game 2. “I was a little lucky today, a couple times where I made the first move I still ended up making the save,” Lundqvist said. “That’s not going to happen all the time. So you need some luck sometimes. I always say you earn your luck by working hard. But today was a good day.”
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, but it’s tough to beat a team that gets two shutouts from their goalie in one series. One thing you can count on in Game 4 is the Devils taking the puck to the goal-mouth a lot more. Another thing you can count on is Brandon Prust being suspended (although, take those words with a grain of salt, because Brendan Shanahan’s penalties have been nothing but inconsistent) for his elbow to the back of Anton Volchenkov’s head. Prust made three huge mistakes that won’t get overlooked: he used his elbow, he targeted the head, and it was by the boards. This wouldn’t be the first time a suspension was handed down when there was no penalty on the play.
The Devils’ next chance to even the series is Monday night at 8PM in Newark.