NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Rangers had the ton of experience coming into the playoffs against the young New Jersey Devils, and it certainly was the difference Game 1 of their first-round series, along with Igor Shesterkin.
Shesterkin made 27 saves, Chris Kreider scored two power-play goals and the Rangers stunned the Devils 5-1 on Tuesday night in the team’s firt postseason meeting since 2012.
“He has been our best player,” said Kreider of Shesterkin. ”He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
So were most of the Rangers on a night the Devils had a bad case of the jitters. They had six players in the lineup playing in the postseason for the first time and five others who had played a few playoff games.
“I thought we had guys that didn’t handle the puck very well early,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “Probably nerves, jitters. I think everybody in that room that hasn’t been a playoff game, now knows what it’s like to be in a playoff game, to experience that type of atmosphere.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Lindgren and Filip Chytil also scored for the Rangers. Adam Fox had four assists and Artemi Panarin had two in this seventh renewal of this river rivalry in the postseason.
The Devils, who set franchise records with 112 points and 52 wins in the regular season and beat New York three times in four games, never got their rush game going. When they did threaten, they either missed the net or Shesterkin denied them.
Their only goal came on a penalty shot by Jack Hughes with 2:46 left to play. Vitek Vanecek had 18 saves.
“We had a lot of blocked shots. Guys are buying in,” Fox said. “We did a good job.”
The Rangers also won the special teams battle. Kreider scored on two of their three power plays and the Rangers blanked the Devils on their four man advantages — holding them without even a shot on goal — though the penalty shot came in place of a power play.
Game 2 is back here on Thursday night.
“We didn’t use our chance on the power play and that definitely hurt us tonight,” said Devils captain Nico Hischier, who was hit a lot by the Rangers. “Special teams, looking back and other than that, I think we gave an effort. We weren’t lacking in effort for tonight but that’s how it goes sometimes.’
The Rangers, who finished third in the Metropolitan Division behind the Devils, set the tone in the opening 10 minutes and never looked back. They hit, they blocked shots and they were very physical around the net.
Rangers captain Jacob Trouba knocked Hischier and Hughes to the ice or into the boards any chance he got.
Tarasenko, who was acquired from St. Louis before the trade deadline, scored 4:58 into the game with a shot from between the circle on a nice pass K’Andre Miller.
Kreider scored on a tip at 9:30 with Miles Wood in the penalty box. Lindgren, who had one goal in the regular season, scored in close late in the second period and Kreider had another tip in early in the third.
After Hughes made his penalty shot, Chytil scored into an empty net.
NOTES: Fox’s four assists tied his career high in the postseason. He also had four against Pittsburgh last year. … Kreider became the Rangers all-time leader in playoff goals. He now has 36 to Rod Gilbert’s 34. His power-play goals gave him 14, surpassing Adam Graves (13) for top in Rangers’ playoff history. … Devils D Luke Hughes, Jack’s brother, was a healthy scratch. The team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2021 signed out of college and played in the final two games of the regular season. … Akira Schmid was the Devils’ backup goalie instead of veteran Mackenzie Blackwood. … The Rangers didn’t get their first shot on goal in the second period until Pananin’s shot was gloved by Vanecek with 11:08 left.
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