The Rangers entered Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the same situation as their first two playoff series. Tied at a game apiece, and needing at least one win on the road to regain home-ice advantage, the Rangers felt comfortable going into New Jersey to battle the Devils. Maybe it was because they had been through it before, or maybe it was because they have Henrik Lundqvist in net.
In what was a tale of two games, the Rangers’ MVP repeatedly stonewalled the Devils’ offense in making 36 saves, and the Rangers scored three times in the 3rd period, including two goals in a span of 1:57 to win 3-0 and take a 2-1 series lead. Despite the final score, the Rangers had trouble for a good portion of the afternoon.
In the first period, the Devils outshot the Rangers 11-5, and controlled the action throughout the period. As was the case in Game 2, the Rangers had trouble with the Devils’ aggressive forecheck, and when they were able to enter the zone, the Devils defense was able to keep them to the outside. However, Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game with many saves on odd-man rushes, including two breakaway saves on Ilya Kovalchuk.
This trend continued early in the second period, and Rangers head coach John Tortorella called a timeout to try and change the momentum of the game. Although the Devils outshot the Rangers 15-9 in the period, the pace of the game and the momentum of the game began to shift towards the Rangers. As good as Lundqvist was in net for the Blueshirts, Martin Brodeur was equal to the task for the Devils. Although Brodeur wasn’t tested often, he robbed the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan on a point blank shot at the side of the net to keep the game scoreless after two periods.
The Rangers finally broke the scoreless tie early in the third period. With the Devils’ Bryce Salvador in the penalty box after being called for hooking, Brad Richards won a faceoff back to Dan Girardi, and the Rangers’ defenseman fired a wrist shot in between Brodeur’s side and blocker to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. The goal was Girardi’s 3rd of the playoffs (2nd of this series), and all three goals have been game winners.
Less than two minutes later, the Rangers extended their lead. After struggling for most of the afternoon at maintaining puck possession inside the Devils’ zone, the Rangers 4th line was able to keep the puck in New Jersey’s end during the shift after Girardi’s goal, and on the following shift, Ryan McDonagh’s shot was tipped by Chris Kreider past Brodeur. The goal was Kreider’s 5th of the postseason, and he has goals in three consecutive playoff games, becoming the 2nd Rangers’ rookie to do so (the other being Don Maloney in 1979).
The Devils continued to put pressure on the Rangers, but even when they were able to get one by Lundqvist, the post was in the way. Lundqvist’s shutout was his 2nd of this series, the first time since 1997 that a Rangers goalie had two shutouts in the same series (Mike Richter vs. the Devils).