For a series that was expected to have some bad blood, the heavyweight bout wasn’t between two players throwing haymakers at each other. Instead it was between two world-class goaltenders.
The Rangers shut out the Devils, 3-0, to win game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night, but for the game was not all New York. In fact for most of the game It was New Jersey who controlled most of the play, forcing Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist to be stellar for the first two periods.
Among several scoring chances for the Devils was a breakaway chance for Ilya Kovalchuck, as well as a chance by Zach Parise that saw him get straight shots on Lundqvist. “I saw him coming, I just tried to be aggressive and tried to stay on my knees. It worked out pretty good,” Lundqvist said after the game about Parise’s chance in the second period.
“You have to give Henrik (Lundqvist) a lot of credit there for keeping us in the game,” Ryan McDonagh told reporters after the game.
Lundqvist pushed aside 21 shots for the Rangers in the win and was happy to help in such a big way in the win.
“As a goalie you always want to step up when the team is not going so good, and they're having some tough moments,” Lundqvist said after the game. “It's fun to be there and try to make a difference when the team is going through a tough stretch.”
On the other end Martin Brodeur played well too, stopping 25 shots, but due to a breakdown by the Devils early in the third period the Rangers fired a shot into the net. Brodeur frustrated the Rangers making several big saves including a glove save in the third period to keep New York from going ahead pulling away.
Lundqvist called Brodeur one of the great players in the NHL, putting him up there with goaltending great Dominik Hasek.
“Every time you play against great players it’s exciting,” he said. “Growing up he was already a big guy over here, a big name. Of course it’s inspiring and exciting to play against top guys. It always is.”
Prior to game 1, Brodeur acknowledged Lundqvist’s status as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
"Well, I mean, he's a Vezina candidate," Brodeur said. "I don't know, he's unbelievable lately. He's kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now.
“I just expect it to be a big war out there,” Lundqvist said after the game. And while the series may be a war, the biggest battle will take place between the pipes.