The New York Rangers took the 1-0 lead in the first round of the playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night after toppling them, 4-1. The Rangers did a lot of good things to win the first game in the series.
First, the Rangers dominated the game from start to finish, forcing the Flyers to play Rangers style hockey. The Rangers possessed the puck throughout the majority of the game. Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist had very little work to do, facing only 15 shots, while the Flyers’ netminder, Ray Emery, faced 36 shots.
Second, the Rangers figured out how to solve Emery. The first goal scored at 10:53 by Mats Zuccarello was shot from the side and behind Emery. The third goal (a power play goal) from Derek Stepan was shot from Emery’s right side and behind. The fourth goal from Carl Hagelin was shot in the exact same spot, the right side and behind. Each time, they caught Emery on the wrong side of the net.
Third, the Rangers didn’t allow the Flyers to play their hard-hitting, aggressive (some would call it goon-like) style of game. The Rangers never carried the puck down the middle. The puck was always brought in on the sides of the neutral zone. The Flyers defense was always waiting in the middle. This tactic allowed the Rangers to get into the Flyers’ zone quickly with little altercation at center ice.
Fourth, the Rangers defensively kept the Flyers’ goal scorers from getting a shot on goal. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Vincent Lecavalier were all held without a shot. Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who didn’t even score a goal in the 19 games he played during the regular season, was the only Flyer to score a goal at 7:28 in the first period.
Tactically, the Rangers were the team that did a better job in Game One.
“I thought that all parts of our game were sharp: the way we managed the puck, the decisions, special teams,” Lundqvist said of the game. “A lot to be happy for. The most important thing though is to win the game and we did.”
What also helped them was the fact they were able to dismantle the Flyers in the third period. Flyers’ Jason Akeson’s hi-stick on Rangers’ Hagelin was the turning point in the game. The hi-stick cut Hagelin’s lip, thus awarding the Rangers a four-minute power play from the double-minor. Brad Richards tallied the first power play goal at 8:22. Derek Stepan tallied the second power play goal at 9:09. Hagelin later sealed the Flyers’ doom when he scored at 15:52.
“I thought we worked really hard the whole game,” Lundqvist said. “We stayed patient throughout the whole game. We did a lot of great plays. In the third period, our special teams stepped up big time with that big kill early on and then the power play. They had a lot of good looks.”
That energy that sparked the Rangers in the third period started off with the penalty kill.
“It felt like we got some energy from the boys there, the way they blocked a couple of shots,” Lundqvist said of the penalty kill in the third period. “They made some big plays. That’s what you need with a tie game going into the third. To get onto the power play early on, it’s huge for us. You could feel the energy coming from the group after that and then the power play did the rest.”
“It feels good tonight,” Ryan McDonagh said after the game. “You’ve got to continue to do it throughout the series. It’s just one game here. We’ve got to rebound and learn some things, do some things a little bit better and continue to build on this.”
Game Two will take place on Sunday at 12PM at Madison Square Garden.