The Rangers didn’t take the lead during either of their first two post-season playoffs, but they do now — and over the course of successive Stanley Cup champions.
In another full team effort that showed their sacred trinity to victory – strong play, scoring from the top six and goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin – the Rangers escaped with a convincing 6-2 victory over Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night at crowded Madison Square Garden.
Tampa Bay may have been rusty after wrapping up Round Two of the Panthers sweep over a week ago, and Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said that definitely made a difference. But the Rangers still pinned six goals (double the number Florida scored in the entire four-game series), two for Philip Chettle, in Lightning star goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky To connect their playoffs into a single competition.
“We took the mindset of worrying about ourselves and our group,” Jacob Troba said before the match. “We have a little new life here.”
Did they flourish?
The crowds huddled in the park couldn’t help themselves. With the sixth and final goal, chants of “Igor is better!” rang through the arena. And Shesterkin was better at this, scoring 37 passes compared to 28 for Vasilievsky.
But for all the angst surrounding the club’s inexperience and overwhelming youth presence in every crevice of the squad heading into the playoffs, these previously untested players are the most consistent with Rangers this post-season.
The young ones carried her and played a major role in setting Tampa Bay apart in the series’ opening.
The Rangers included a solid second stint behind Kid Lane and two goals from Chettel, who now has five in the past three games and seven in this playoff. His teammates, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, aided in the Czechs’ first tally, when Kakko fired at Chytil from behind the net to take a 3-2 lead shortly midway through the first half.
With his streak still buzzing and lightning struck their area, Chytil was set by 2nd year defender Candre Miller for a one-timer down on one knee, just over 5 minutes later. In the 4-2 score, every Rangers snowboarder was 24 years old or younger.
Chytil, Kakko and Lafreniere have each collected 10 goals this post-season, but it’s the way they’ve driven play and the energy that exudes from their competitive edge that has made a difference in Rangers’ game.
Saying the kids are okay is becoming a bit of an understatement.
“It’s just a treat to watch, honestly,” said Artemi Panarin, who gave the Rangers a three-goal lead 30 seconds into the third half.
Mika Zibanijad, who capped his power play from his sweet spot in the left circle by scoring that night, added: “I’m really impressed. We need everyone and the way they play, they’ve been a huge success for us. It’s fun to see.”
The Rangers were opportunists as the lightning worked their legs back under them. With just over a minute into the match, Zibanegad faked the shot in a two-on-one dash before turning to Chris Kreider, who scored the 33rd in his career playoff, shoving him inside one of Rangers legend Rod Gilbert’s numbers.
However, it was the recorded increase of baby blue shirts that made the difference. If it continues, Rangers’ chances of getting the most dominant team in the NHL kicked out will increase exponentially.
“Take it one game at a time,” said Frank Vatrano. Who scored a goal in the second half?, from the Rangers’ approach to playing with their first captain in the Postseason Series. “They are a good team out there. We can’t let our foot off the throttle. We just have to keep playing one rosary at a time, one game at a time, and stick to our game plan.”