The New York Rangers won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 6-2, leading the best of seven series 1-0.
Led by Filip Chytil’s two goals, the New York Rangers took advantage of a slower Lightning team, thanks to a nine-day layoff, defeating Tampa Bay 6-2 in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night.
It’s the first time the Rangers have won the first game of a series this playoff with Game two scheduled for Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist, and Alexis Lafreniere and Adam Fox each had two assists for the Rangers.
Igor Shesterkin made 37 saves in his first ECF game. Sheesterkin and the Rangers have now won seven consecutive home games something that has not been done since 2014 when Chicago Blackhawks goalie Cory Crawford accomplished the same feat.
Mika Zibanejad, whose two points on Wednesday gave him a total of 21 points (8G 13A) in this postseason, understands the importance of the win and that this series is far from over.
“It’s nice for the confidence to score some goals, but we’ve been at the other end of it,” Zibanejad said. “[The series] is still just 1-0. It’s a new game on Friday. Just got to get back to playing our game and try to take some positives from this game. … We know it’s far from over. It’s just one game so we’ve just got to keep going.”
The Rangers wasted no time taking advantage of what coach Gerard Gallant called a “rusty” team when Mika Zibanejad faked a shot off of a two on one and feed Chris Kreider who buried the shot to the right of Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for a 1-0 lead 1:11 seconds into the contest.
The Rangers had been led by the “Kids” line for much of the previous two rounds. Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kappo Kakko continued their great play by contributing two goals (both by Chytil) in the win. Chytil has now scored seven goals in 15 playoff games. He scored eight in 67 regular-season games this season.
Gallant likes what he has seen by the line and the way Chytil has stepped up his game,
“Fil’s a good kid,” Gallant said. “He worked hard, he competes hard and he deserves what he’s getting right now. He’s stepped his game up. He knows it, everybody knows it and that is exactly what we need from him.”
The trio of Lafreniere (2A), Chytil (2G), and Kakko (1A) combined for five points on Wednesday, and all, individually, had a plus-2 rating. All three players are 22 or under (Lafreniere – 20, Kakko – 21 Chytil -22).
Far From Over
It’s just one game and the club knows the fire power this Lightning team possesses, so the Rangers need to be smart as they look to build on their 1-0 series lead.
“Take it one game at a time,” said Frank Vatrano. “They’re a good team over there. We can’t let our foot off the throttle. We just have to keep playing one shift at a time, one game at a time, stick to our game plan.”
To get a 2-0 lead in this series and hold home-ice advantage will be a tough thing fo the Rangers to do. The lightning has not lost a game following a loss in 18 consecutive playoff games.
This team has been smart, resilient, and able to adjust to whomever they play. They gave thee lightning and an unexpected smack in the face on Wednesday. Now they have to prepare for a team that will come hard at them on Friday night looking to prevent falling into a 2-0 series hole.
Follow Frank Curto on Twitter at @RangerProud