Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Scoring in 1st Period Will Help Devils Finish Rangers
The New Jersey Devils have scored first and led after the first period in each of their three Eastern Conference final victories so far. The opposing New York Rangers have struck only once in the opening stanza in any of the first five games, that being Game 5, when Brandon Prust started their vain rally from a 3-0 deficit.
In each of New Jersey’s two losses in this series, the Hudson River rivals have been in a scoreless deadlock well into the third period.
The Devils’ formula for taking Friday night’s Game 6, along with the Prince of Wales Trophy, is as simple as the track record indicates. They must certifiably stoke the Prudential Center masses, exploit a recently fragile Henrik Lundqvist and put the rest of the Rangers on their heels.
Every tangible dent they endure before they can produce at the other end should instill the less ideal, frantic form of desperation to the Blueshirts. But the Devils will want to ensure they balance their expenditure of energy so as not to hand back any confidence the way they momentarily did in Game 5.
Although they cracked open a bigger lead in a smaller window of time on Wednesday, the most ideal start would actually be more along the lines of Monday night’s Game 4. When they last played in front of their home crowd, the Devils nabbed a 2-0 advantage while going on a 12-7 run in the first-period shooting gallery.
Neither team tuned the mesh again until Zach Parise swept in Ilya Kovalchuk’s rebound on a power play at 2:41 in the third period. In between, goaltender Martin Brodeur had an answer for each of New York’s 11 second-period shots and only blinked when the eventual 4-1 victory was already in hand.
Conversely, in Game 5, the Devils sculpted themselves a 3-0 lead on five shots before the halfway mark of the opening frame. By intermission, Prust had put the Rangers on the board, and the host team had taken three of the period’s last four shots.
New Jersey would never land any more than six shots at Lundqvist in a single period. And between the start of the second and the 17-second mark of the third, New York went on a 12-5 run, all the while pulling even where it mattered most at 3-3.
Regardless of how deep a pothole they ultimately dig for their adversaries, the Devils need to test Lundqvist’s stamina, which appears to be running dry after a league-leading 20 games and 1,190 minutes played in these playoffs.
Within the last two games, Lundqvist has allowed seven goals and repelled 38 of 45 shots, amounting to an .844 save percentage. He authorized four opposing goals in a single game for the first time in the postseason on Wednesday while also amassing a season-low .750 save percentage.
If they get to him early enough on Friday night, that save percentage from Lundqvist’s last outing will match the Devils’ league-leading home-ice winning percentage in these playoffs. They are currently 5-2 in the Prudential Center, where they also own the best playoff scoring differential at 22-15.
Building upon the latter statistic can only help them to build upon the former, and to grant them a new challenge in the form of the postseason’s ultimate road warriors from Los Angeles.
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