Lundqvist, Kreider lift Rangers over Devils in series opener
(AP) - Rangers rookie Chris Kreider and defenseman Dan Girardi both had a goal and an assist in the third period, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots for his fifth career playoff shutout, as weary New York opened the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-0 victory over the well-rested New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
Playing just two days after eliminating Washington in a stirring 2-1 Game 7 victory, the top-seeded Rangers hit their home ice again and won their third straight Game 1 of these playoffs. The Devils had been off for five days since they knocked out the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
No team forced to play seven-game series in each of the first two rounds has gone on to win the Stanley Cup, but the Rangers are determined to be the first. Shaking off suggestions they are tired, the Rangers slogged through two scoreless periods and pulled out a win with a dominating third period.
The Rangers are in the conference finals for the first time since 1997, and they haven't reached the Stanley Cup finals since 1994 when they beat 22-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur and the Devils in a classic seven-game series that backed up captain Mark Messier's guarantee.
New Jersey is making its first conference finals appearance since 2003, the year the Devils won the Cup for the third time.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in New York.
Girardi, who struggled at times with his defensive duties, got a perfect setup from Kreider and scored 53 seconds into the third period. Playing in just his 13th NHL game, all in these playoffs, Kreider sent a pass back from the right circle in the Devils' zone to the point. Girardi took long strides as he charged up ice and stepped into a shot that ripped through a screen in front by teammate Derek Stepan. The shot beat Brodeur for Girardi's second playoff goal this season and second in 47 career postseason games.
The other assist went to 21-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who along with Kreider was only 3 when these teams last met in the conference finals in '94.
Girardi also earned a secondary assist on Kreider's power-play goal with 8 minutes remaining that made it 2-0. New York's slumping power play connected after Girardi was drilled hard from behind into the boards by Devils forward Steve Bernier.
Artem Anisimov, who also assisted on Kreider's goal, scored into an empty net to make it 3-0 with 1:27 left.