Thursday, April 12, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ Captain Callahan and Blueshirts Pound Sens


Stanley Cup Playoffs



Ottawa Senators       2
New York Rangers    4

Rangers lead best-of-seven series 1-0

NEW YORK RANGERS:  Ryan Callahan is a Big Hit Under
the Bright Lights Off-Broadway.

The Ottawa Senators' success in Madison Square Garden over the last few regular seasons meant absolutley nothing Thursday evening during the opening contest of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs' quarter-final round.  To the Rangers, there is no previous history.  There are no prior failures.  For the Blueshirts of 2011-2012, there is only right now.

Ottawa promptly peppered Henrik Ludqvist with fourteen shots on goal, and largely carried the first period play.  Brandon Prust and Stu Bickel committed a pair of overly aggressive penalties, which the Rangers successfully killed off.  The Rangers themselves were 0 for 1 on the PP in the first period and mustered only eight shots on goal.

But it was the Rangers' Captain; Ryan Callahan; who seized upon the first big moment of the game and wound up setting the tone for the night.  At 12:01 of the opening period, he out-muscled Filip Kuba in front of Craig Anderson and wristed a shot past the Ottawa goalie into the back right corner of the net, for a Rangers 1-0 lead.  The Captain then took it upon himself to turn up the physicality of the game.  He found and flattened Matt Gilroy into the Ottawa back boards.  Then found and drove a shoulder into Jesse Winchester at mid-ice.

In the second period, the Rangers missed an amazing opportunity to make it 2-0 game, when after Craig Anderson came way too far out of his net, the Rangers missed a shot at the empty goal.  But it was Ottawa which continued to out-shoot the Rangers over the first half of the period.  With seven minutes left, Michael Del Zoto got whistled for a very questionable tripping penalty in the Rangers' zone which the Blueshirts successfully killed off for a third time in two periods.

The Blueshirts then struck again.  Rising up as if on que, the Rangers' leading regular season scorer cashed in on a crafty play.  Marian Gaborik netted his first goal of the second season with three and a half minutes to go in the second period.  After a fake, a hesitation, and some fancy stick handling, Gaborik slipped an (unassisted) puck passed Craig Anderson for a 2-0 Rangers lead.

The Rangers carried play now, and managed to draw a hooking penalty by Filip Kuba.  They wound up being unsuccessful on their second power play opportunity of the night.  But with less than a minute left in the second period, Brian Boyle gave the Rangers what they were looking for.  A lot of hard work to keep a play alive in the Sens zone paid off for Boyle, as he scored the first ever playoff goal of his career.  The Rangers took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

The Rangers came out in the final session and continued to dictate the pace of the game.  And early in the third period, the Rangers fore-check started to take it's desired effect.  They forced a turnover behind the Ottawa's net when Carl Hagelin stormed in upon his man and separated the puck.  He found Brad Richard skating down the slot who recieved a good pass and wristed the Rangers' fourth goal of the evening behind a bewildered Craig Anderson.

Halfway through the third period, Daniel Alfredsson finally did what he does so well.  He deflected a shot towards net beyond Henrik Lundqvist for the Sens' first goal of the evening.

With twelve minutes left, the Rangers went on their fourth power play of the evening.  And for the fourth time, they came up empty.

For most of the third period, each team limited the other to just two shots on goal.  And wouldn't you know, with less than three minutes left in the game, Ottawa made their third shot of the period count.  The Sens pulled within two goals but had little time to score two more.

With only seconds left on the clock, Ryan Callahan took a shot from the Ranger end towards an empty Ottawa net but missed.  He might have missed, but it was appropriate that he should take the last shot of the game.  He scored the Rangers' first goal, and laid some pretty big hits over the course of the game.  The Captain's Rangers won Game One, of their quarter-final series against the Ottawa Senators by a 4-2 final score.

Ottawa's two third period goals did little to diminish Henrik Lundqvist's stellar effort tonight.  Although the two goals did tarnish it a bit.  On Alfredsson's goal, Henrik had absolutely no defensive help.  The second goal, well, it was scored off a hell of an angle.  There's no taking away however, Henrik was huge.  He faced thiry-two shots and turned back thirty.

For the Rangers, their big names stepped up big time.  Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, and Brad Richards all showed up to shine in the bright light Off-Broadway.  And it couldn't have been possible without the supporting cast of Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, Carl Hagelin, and solid play by the Blueliners.

If there is a way to start a seven game playoff series, this was it.  The Rangers got off to a questionable start.  But before the game got away from them, Coach Torts called a time out and readjusted his team's attitude.  The results from that moment on, led to a satisfying Game One victory.

Hey!  Hey!  Hey!


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