When coaches call timeouts in a game, it’s generally to help their guys catch their breath, especially if they seem a little bit sluggish. It’s also designed to change the momentum of the game…if the teams are lucky. Sometimes that break ends up working for the other team…other times, it ends up working to the coach’s advantage.
Rangers coach John Tortorella’s decision to call a timeout halfway through the second period changed the game in its entirety for the Rangers. In the first half of the middle period, the Senators dominated the puck. After the timeout was called, the momentum changed for the Rangers.
Marian Gaborik made extremely intelligent plays as he took the puck to the net. He waited for Ottawa’s goaltender Craig Anderson to make his move before executing his decision to go five-hole. That smart play gave the Rangers their second goal of the game.
Goals also came from unexpected places like the fourth line. Brian Boyle scored with 53.8 seconds remaining in the period. This was the kind of lead the Rangers needed in order to take the first game in the series.
Starting the game at home for the Rangers was also an instrumental part of this first win. Just feeling the energy from your own fans, in your own house, can help set the tone of the game.
“I knew it was going to be fun to come out and feel the support,” Henrik Lundqvist said of starting the first game at home. “All your work all year to be here, you need to grab the opportunity to enjoy it and push yourself.”
New York Rangers 4, Ottawa Senators 2
Game 1 of this series quickly got heated as the pressure started to build between the two clubs right from the puck drop. This is the playoffs…and both teams want to win and advance just as much as the next guy. For the Rangers, they had some solid leadership from Ryan Callahan as he not only scored the first goal in the series at 12:01, but he also delivered four hits in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Lundqvist displayed that perhaps he had been holding out all season so that he could pull out all of his best moves for the playoffs as he stopped puck after puck. He did not make it easy on the Senators, no matter how they came at him.
As the first half of the second period unfolded, Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson came out of the net, skated all the way to the blueline, and collided with his teammate Matt Gilroy. The net was wide open, Mike Rupp had the puck and tried to sail it down to the net, only to go wide. Anderson could have cost the Senators another goal with that bad decision to come out of the net like that. Luckily for him, that wasn’t the case.
Ottawa continued to dominate the puck. The Rangers were starting to lose their edge, coming closer and closer to giving up a goal.
It was 10:09 when Coach Tortorella decided to call a timeout, which was the move that would ultimately change the course of the game.
“It’s just a matter of trying to settle yourself down,” Tortorella said of the timeout. “And not keep on giving it back to them. I felt that was what we were doing…just slopping around.”
“They grabbed the momentum for a few minutes and made some good saves,” Gaborik said. They had some zone time, so we just had to calm everything down.
“They had ten minutes of momentum there. We took a timeout that we had to play with more confidence…try to play more with the puck. We grabbed the momentum back on our side and scored a couple of goals, which was great.”
Gaborik ended up being the one to score on that new momentum at 16:24. He made intelligent moves by going in slowly, watching and waiting for Anderson to make his move. When he finally made his move, Gaborik skated in and flipped the puck through Anderson’s five-hole to give the Rangers the 2-0 lead over the Senators.
Boyle followed at19:06 with his first career NHL playoff goal.
In the final period, the Rangers continued to capitalize as the Senators started to come apart at the seams. Brad Richards edged the Rangers up another goal at 2:15.
The Senators were finally able to tally their first goal at 10:05 from Daniel Alfredsson, and another from Erik Condra. In Condra’s first NHL playoff game, he was able to score his first NHL playoff goal at 17:41 to end the game 4-2 in favor of the Rangers.
The Rangers are considered the favorite to win this series.
After this first step in their race for the Cup, does this seem like an easy win for the Rangers? Not at all. This is a tough team for the Rangers to defeat in order to make it to Round Two.
“There’s going to be surges throughout the game, throughout a series,” Callahan said. “Throughout a game, there’s going to be momentum swings. I think the team that wins is the team that handles that the best.”
Game Two is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th at 7:00 p.m.