Recap: 4th Line Sets the Tone, Rangers Win Game 1

It’s been an incredible season for the Presidents’ Trophy winning New York Rangers, but the start of the real season and the quest for the real trophy started this afternoon. Game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals. With plenty of time off between game 82 and today, Rangers fans were eagerly awaiting how the rest of the league would shape out and once the Capitals secured the final wildcard spot, the excitement and anticipation for today’s puck drop only amplified. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

1st Period:

A storied playoff rivalry, big name star players on both ends of the ice, who would be the story in the opening period of Game 1, Round 1? You guessed it! The officials. Look, I get no satisfaction whatsoever from criticizing the officiating and believe it or not, neither do a lot of passionate hockey fans. However, it’s impossible not to when it has an effect on the pace of a game like it did here, especially one of this magnitude. There was little to no pace throughout the opening period as every couple of minutes, the officials were sending someone off to the box. Not to mention, it felt as though every other face-off, they were kicking someone out of the draw or redoing it altogether. 

Penalty-gate kicked off about a minute and a half in as Matt Rempe was called for charging against Beck Malenstyn. Charging is when a player either leaves their feet to deliver a hit or goes extremely out of there way to deliver a hit, Rempe did neither of those things. Nevertheless, the Rangers penalty killers got to work early and were successful in holding off what could be a threatening power play unit with Alexander Ovechkin always waiting in his office. Luckily, the Rangers wouldn’t have to wait too long for the make up call as one minute after Rempe returned to the ice, Alexander Alexeyev was called for holding. 

On the subject of threatening power plays, the Rangers are among the league’s best so this came as a great opportunity to get on the board but alas, they were a bit shaky at the start. Just as the broadcast mentioned, the Rangers hadn’t played a game in almost a full week whereas the Capitals have been fighting for their playoff lives for weeks. Not even two minutes after the penalty to Alexeyev expired, the official’s arm was back up and it was an interesting culprit at hand in Vincent Trocheck. 

Again, I hate complaining and conspiring about the officiating but it is worth keeping in mind that just a week and a half ago, Vincent Trocheck was in a full on screaming match with Kelly Sutherland over a terrible non-call. Now here we are, Game 1 of the playoffs with Kelly calling the game and Trocheck was kicked out of at least one offensive zone face-off and then given an atrocious slashing penalty for knocking the stick of Hendrix Lapierre out of his hands. Luckily, Max Pacioretty initiated a little scrum with a cross-check to Adam Fox which offset the man advantage and brought on two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. 

Despite the extra room on the ice, neither team got much going but that wouldn’t stop the officials from getting in the way of things. The Rangers were called for icing on a play that very much was not icing. They would correct their mistake by moving the face-off to center ice but overall, not a great look for the league from this group of officials. It wasn’t looking any better shortly after the team’s returned to even strength as the arm again went up following another situation involving Trocheck. 

On a play where the Rangers centerman was going hard towards Washington’s net, Trocheck would end up sliding into Charlie Lindgren which aggressively knocked the net out of place. Given how the game had gone up to this point, it almost felt as if Trocheck was getting sent off again, but it would rightfully be a penalty to Washington as Tom Wilson had delivered a hit which sent him crashing into the net. On their second attempt, the Rangers power play unit looked much better but again, were unable to capitalize. It didn’t help that Mika Zibanejad’s one timer was seemingly becoming less of an option given the fact that Lindgren’s catching glove is on Mika’s side of the ice there. 

One more penalty would wrap up the start of this one as Will Cuylle was called for holding with just under three minutes to go. It would be a scoreless start here as there were more penalties called then the Capitals had shots on goal and the same could almost be said for the Rangers. (SOG 7-4 in favor of NYR) Out of context, you would think that meant there were lots of fights and other scraps but that couldn’t be farther from the case as the officials were calling everything and anything which hindered much else to take place. Despite the low shot tally, the Rangers were credited with 24 attempts, won 58% of the draws and led in both high danger chances and expected goals for. 

2nd Period:

It would be a far more exciting second period as the flood gates opened rather quickly for the New York Rangers. About four minutes in, a strong shift from the fourth line kept the puck in the Capitals zone below the goal line. Playoffs are a magical time of year and it isn’t uncommon for the more under the radar names to shine through and come up big in key moments and sure enough, the story that continues to write itself, got things started here at the Garden. After a great zone entry from the Rangers rookie, Matt Rempe found himself all alone with a wide open net right at the back door following a perfect little passing play from Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow. Rempe would put it home to make it 1-0 Rangers for his first career playoff goal. 

Less than 40 seconds later, an outstanding forecheck from Alexis Lafrenière resulted in him delivering a massive hit on Vincent Iorio. From there, Vincent Trocheck would pick up the puck and find Artemiy Panarin all alone on the right side who sent a quick shot through Charlie Lindgren to make it a 2-0 game. 

As if the Garden wasn’t already fired up from the Rempe goal, two goals in less than a minute put the place in postseason mode just as quick. Momentum was fully on the Rangers end of the ice and sure enough, Peter Laviolette continued to answer with his fourth line after coming up with the big goal to get them started. Off an offensive zone face-off win from Barclay Goodrow, Jimmy Vesey threw the puck on net which took a weird route up and over Charlie Lindgren to extend the Rangers lead to 3-0. 

There was an extremely brief discussion after the goal as Beck Malenstyn skated right into Matt Rempe off the draw which left him laying on the ice while the Vesey shot went in. Not much to review as there was no substance to it given the fact that the Caps forward skated directly into him and it had nothing to do with the goal itself. 

As play continued, the Capitals were starting to play with a little more desperation and perhaps the Rangers were starting to lay back a bit. As a result, just over a minute after the Vesey goal, Martin Fehervary got a skate on a Tom Wilson shot that deflected right into the back of the Rangers net to put the Capitals on the board, 3-1 game. 

Things largely settled down from there but it wouldn’t be a penalty free period. Nearing the midway point of the game, Lafrenière was called for another questionable slashing penalty to give the Capitals another power play. Again, the Rangers were strong on the penalty kill which fought off the advantage, but the Capitals were still pushing. They would go on to out-shoot the Rangers 11-9 throughout the second but for all intents and purposes, the Blueshirts were still in a great spot. 

Tensions would pick up at the end of the second as Trevor van Riemsdyk got tangled up with a group of Rangers that led to Tom Wilson joining the party. Some pushing and shoving capped off a period much more indicative of playoff hockey with the Rangers leading 3-1. 

3rd Period:

That fourth line continued to be an x-factor for the Rangers as Jimmy Vesey nearly picked up his second of the night on another great shift to open the final period of regulation. Of course soon after, Trocheck would head back to the penalty box as he picked up a tripping penalty for the Rangers fifth of the night. While the Rangers were still in control of things, they had to be careful here as one slip up could have brought the Capitals within one and potentially changed things significantly. 

Nevertheless, the Rangers were strong through and through. They killed off what ended up being the real last penalty of the game and got some help from Igor Shesterkin to shut down the Capitals through a pretty slow closing period. Lots of icings and pucks going out of play kind of drew things out but with four minutes to go, the energy would pick back up. Mika Zibanejad would find a breaking Chris Kreider who used his speed to go in all alone on Charlie Lindgren. Typically, Kreider tends to favor the quick shot but this time around, made the wise decision to cut to his backhand and sure enough, he managed to slide it past Lindgren to extend the Rangers lead, 4-1. 

A pretty big goal for the franchise leading postseason goal scorer who also passed Marc Staal to become second all time in playoff games played for the Rangers. 

That would just about do it save for the typical end of game scrums that are evermore present in the postseason. Tom Wilson got tangled up with Braden Schneider and eventually K’Andre Miller in front of the Rangers net which led to the notorious Rangers villain to start throwing punches. Typical stuff from 43 in white. The officials actually made a good decision and put an early end to his night as well as former Rangers bust Dylan McIlrath’s to prevent anything else from breaking out in the final minute of play. 

The horn would sound and the Rangers would take a 1-0 lead in the series. All things considered, the Rangers did a great job of weathering a strange opening period to find their game in the second, establishing a significant lead for themselves in the process. While there’s still a higher level for this team to reach, it’s hard not to be happy with several things. Panarin scored, Kreider scored, the fourth line had an unreal start to the playoffs and for the most part, they played true to their game and shut the Capitals down. We’ll be right back at it at the World’s Most Famous for Game 2 on Tuesday Night.