NEW YORK — 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.