Unfortunately, the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers players didn’t drop the gloves and brawl right after the opening faceoff of Monday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals—the clubs did that in a memorable March 19 game during the heated regular-season series.
New York took the opener as rookie Chris Kreider, defenseman Dan Girardi, and Artem Anisimov all had a goal and an assist in the third period as the Rangers turned a scoreless game into a 3-0 win. It tied a franchise mark for most goals in a playoff period. Kreider, 21, only signed with the team April 10 after winning an NCAA title with Boston College. Kreider now has three goals and two assists in 13 games since making his NHL debut on April 16 in Game 3 of the first round against Ottawa.
Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves in Game 1 for his fifth career shutout. Prior to Game 1, 11 of New York’s 14 playoff games were decided by one goal, including four games that required overtime. The other three games were decided by two goals.
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 the Devils and a 22-year-old goalie named Martin Brodeur. Brodeur and the Devils are making their first conference finals appearance since 2003.
Devils at Rangers Betting Story Lines
It was the third straight road playoff opener for New Jersey. They won Game 1 vs. Florida in the first round before taking the series in seven games. They then lost to Philadelphia in the last round before winning the final four games.
The Rangers, who are trying to become the first team to hoist the Stanley Cup after being stretched to seven games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, beat both Ottawa and Washington at home. It should be noted that the Blueshirts then lost both Game 2s by the same 3-2 score (one in OT).
Lundqvist will get most of the credit for the shutout, and he’s probably the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite right now (he leads all NHL goalies with a 1.57 goals-against average).
But his defense has been bailing him out. The Rangers blocked a whopping 26 shots—five each by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi—in Game 1, and their penalty kill held the Devils to just two shots on goal in 6:38 of power-play time. Lundqvist has faced 23 shots or fewer in four straight contests and had to make only four saves in the third period of Game 1.
In fact, the Rangers have now allowed only 14 shots on Lundqvist and one goal in the last 60 minutes of third-period action: six Capitals shots in Game 6 of the second round, four Caps shots and a goal in Game 7, and then four shots by the Devils on Monday night.
Brodeur made his 183rd-consecutive playoff start Monday night. He was terrific for the first two periods and finished with 25 saves—New York’s final goal was an empty-netter. Zach Parise led the Devils with five shots, but he finished with a minus-2 rating in 17:45 of ice time.
Coming into the game having given up eight power play goals in 46 attempts (82.6 percent), the Rangers’ penalty kill was ranked last among the four teams remaining in the postseason.
The Devils owned the top-ranked postseason power play, scoring on 20.9 percent of their chances (9-for-43). But New Jersey was 0-for-4 on the man advantage Monday; New York was 1-for-4 against the Devils’ NHL-leading PK.
Devils at Rangers Betting Odds and Key Trends
New York is at -265 on the Bookmaker series line with New Jersey at +235 following Game 1. For Game 2, the Rangers are -130 favorites with the Devils at +110; the total is 4.5 goals.
The Blueshirts are 6-3 at home during the playoffs and the ‘over/under’ in those is 1-5-3 (all were at five goals). New Jersey is 4-4 on the road and the O/U is 2-4-2. The Devils have won their past four games playing on one days’ rest. New York is 5-1 in its past six playoff games as a favorite.
The under has hit five of the past seven games for New Jersey after losing by at least three goals in the previous game. The under is 8-1-7 in New York’s past 16 games overall. New Jersey is 1-4 in the past five games at Madison Square Garden.
NHL Picks: Devils at Rangers Betting Predictions
Love the Rangers on the series line now: They have won seven of the last eight playoff series in which they won the opening game. But I’m going with New Jersey in Game 2 because the Devils have responded throughout the playoffs with a great game after falling behind in a series. Also, they actually dominated puck possession in the first two periods Monday.
In Game 4 against the Panthers with Florida leading the series 2-1, Brodeur made 26 saves in a 4-0 victory. In Game 6, with the Panthers up 3-2 in the series, the Devils out-shot the Panthers 42-16 en route to a 3-2 overtime decision. And in Game 2 against the Flyers after Philly won the opener, the Devils dominated 4-1 even without the injured Ilya Kovalchuk. New Jersey wins Game 2, 2-0.