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Rangers vs. Lightning: Moore the Hero, Rangers take Game One

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Game 1 is in the books and the Rangers have an early 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The first period looked about as good as any scoreless period could look for the Rangers. The Blueshirts created all kinds of chances but just couldn't buy a goal in the first twenty minutes of Game 1. Derek Stepan was stopped by the shoulder of Ben Bishop on an early breakaway and just a few minutes later he sent a shot wide after Jesper Fast stripped a Lightning defenseman and gave Stepan another golden opportunity. It was something that Rangers fans have become all too familiar with in the 2015 Playoffs; missed opportunities. We also saw Ryan Callahan grab Rangers' sticks twice in the first period without being caught by the referees, I suppose we'll have to get used to being on the receiving end of Cally's sandpaper hockey.

The Brassard line, with Kevin Hayes opposite of Rick Nash instead of Martin St. Louis, had a great period and that was highlighted by an outstanding shift that was started by Brassard knocking a careless Ben Bishop pass out of the air. In the ensuing attack by the Rangers, the iron was hit twice (once by Kevin Hayes and once by Rick Nash on a power move cutting across the net) in a flurry of activity in the Lightning's defensive zone but Bishop was able to bail himself out. Although it was 0-0 after the first twenty minutes, there was no doubt that the Rangers had won the first period.

The first half of the second period found the Rangers still creating golden scoring chances but failing to get pucks on net or past Ben Bishop. During 4 on 4 play Bishop and Lundqvist traded big stops on odd-man rushes before things settled down in even strength. It almost goes without saying, but Henrik Lundqvist was stalwart through the first forty minutes of the game.

8:41 into the second period Nikita Kucherov went to the box to serve the Tampa Bay Lightning's bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Rangers power play only managed one shot on net. With 5:20 left in the second period the Rangers hard work had resulting in having 14 scoring chances to the Lightning's 7.  It was beginning to feel like the Rangers were hunting for the perfect shot to beat Ben Bishop during their scoring chances.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="http://t.co/s0bttKOHXA">pic.twitter.com/s0bttKOHXA</a></p>&mdash; Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) <a href="https://twitter.com/myregularface/status/599642270506328064">May 16, 2015</a></blockquote>

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The Rangers created another quality chance within the last two minutes of the second period when Chris Kreider was sent into the Tampa zone with open ice between him and Bishop but he lost his handle on the puck along the boards. He settled it down and saucered it across the slot to a streaking Jesper Fast who just missed slamming a skipping puck past the giant in the Lightning's crease. The Rangers stayed on the attack after getting back into the zone and with just 12.7 second left in the second period, the boys finally broke through. Chris Kreider got the puck on net after coming out from the corner and fighting for it in the slot while knocking Bishop's stick out of his blocker hand. Derek Stepan found the rebound from Kreider's shot and banged it home to make the Garden roar with relief and joy. Say what you will about Stepan, but with that goal he became the team leader in playoff points with 9. Tampa was much better in the second period, but the Rangers had won their second period of the game.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">GIF: Stepan goal, angle 2 <a href="http://t.co/IPafAQxOgD">http://t.co/IPafAQxOgD</a></p>&mdash; Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) <a href="https://twitter.com/myregularface/status/599646172945510401">May 16, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Just one more reason for Goalies to really, really hate Chris Kreider.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Boy everyone, stop leaving Stepan unchecked in the low slot and off-side post. Or don&#39;t. Actually don&#39;t.</p>&mdash; Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) <a href="https://twitter.com/NMercad/status/599645826248417280">May 16, 2015</a></blockquote>

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5:44 into the third period Ryan McDonagh got his stick up high on Tyler Johnson and was sent to the penalty box. On the ensuing power play, the crisp puck movement of the Tampa Bay Lightning's power play unit cashed in with a one-timer set up by Tyler Johnson and finished off by Ondrej Palat. Despite outworking and out-chancing the Lightning all game, the Rangers suddenly found themselves tied with the Bolts with plenty of time left in the third period.

Four minutes after McDonagh's costly minor, Chris Kreider was caught holding a Lightning player's stick. It was an awful penalty for Kreider to take, but the penalty kill and Hank managed to kill the power play and get the Rangers back to even strength hockey halfway through the third with the score tied.

With 4:55 left in regulation, Anton Stralman made an aggressive move to get past Dominic Moore and into a scoring area and Moore's stick got caught up in Stralman's skates. Moore was sent to the box for tripping and the dangerous Tampa power play took to the ice yet again in the third period. The Rangers' penalty kill came up huge once again. Shortly thereafter, the Rangers had a 3 on 1 opportunity that saw Dominic Moore move the puck to Derick Brassard who wasn't expecting it which resulted in a completely squandered opportunity. Moore got the puck back in deep just moments later and Kevin Hayes sent a pass through the slot that found Moore's leg and got past Ben Bishop with just 2:25 left in regulation. How many times will we see these late goals? Unreal! Absolutely unbelievable. It was a great time for Dominic Moore to get his first of the 2015 NHL Playoffs.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">GIF Moore celebrates his game winning goal <a href="http://t.co/kR0qqvYXku">pic.twitter.com/kR0qqvYXku</a></p>&mdash; Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) <a href="https://twitter.com/myregularface/status/599659962642608129">May 16, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Ben Bishop was pulled but the Lightning couldn't get anything going in the offensive zone. The Rangers managed to hold on without any truly scary moments and, other than Dominic Moore slapping a puck that hit the post of the empty net, the game ended quietly. Game 1 went to the home team and the team that had won the even strength battle throughout the game. Now that is how you start a series, boys. You have to be happy with the way the Rangers played tonight. If some of those early chances had found the back of the net, this game would have never needed Dominic Moore to more than make up for screwing up a 3 on 1 by getting the game winning goal. How many big plays is Kevin Hayes going to make in these playoffs?

Let's go Rangers. Bring on Game 2.