Rangers take Game 1 at MSG with dominant start; McDonagh outstanding

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers got off to a quick start and never looked back, coming away with a 2-1 victory in the first game of the 2015 playoffs. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers did exactly what they were hoping to by coming out strong and aggressive, containing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and skating away with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to open the playoffs.

The Rangers jumped out to an early lead, scoring just 28 seconds into what was a dominant first period. They were aggressive and physical, which started to get under the Penguins’ skin, which led to four Rangers’ power plays in the first period. The Penguins made a game out of it in the last two periods, but the defensive effort from New York was solid, and they were able to shut the door.

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Henrik Lundqvist was very solid in net in Game 1, finishing with 24 saves and looking quite sharp. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Henrik Lundqvist had a very solid performance in net, finishing with 24 saves for his 44th career playoff victory. Coming into tonight, Henrik Lundqvist was 4-0-0 in series-opening games at MSG. He matched that, allowing just one goal. In Lundqvist’s last five Game One’s at Madison Square Garden, he is 5-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .955 save percentage (106 saves on 111 shots).

Before the puck drop, the Garden was buzzing, as you could clearly sense the excitement surrounding playoff hockey in the building. Just 28 seconds into the game, Derick Brassard practically blew the roof off of MSG, scoring his first goal of the playoffs.

Some ice opened up in the neutral zone, and Dan Girardi made a great pass to Rick Nash at the opposing blue line. Nash carried it into the zone before firing a shot pass, perfectly placed and low at Fleury. It went off of his pads and into the middle of the ice, where Derick Brassard was able to score top-shelf on the rebound, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

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Derick Brassard reacts after scoring just 28 seconds into the game to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.


Brassard’s goal was the fastest goal to start a playoff game for the Rangers since Ed Hospodar scored 27 seconds into a game in 1981. It ties the second fastest goal to start a playoff game in Rangers’ franchise history.

New York continued to dominate this game, getting four power play chances, and keeping the puck in the Penguins’ zone. Malkin and Crosby were nonfactors, with Crosby seeing just 3:42 of ice time in the period. The Rangers would add another goal on the power play, and it was the Captain Ryan McDonagh extending the lead to two.

On the power play, the Rangers were cycling the puck up top. Keith Yandle made a great play to draw attention to himself, and passing the puck back to McDonagh with open ice. McDonagh’s one timer deflected off of the leg of Nick Spaling and past Fleury for a 2-0 Rangers lead.

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Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle and Mats Zuccarello all collaborated on a power play goal in the first period, with McDonagh finding the back of the net for his first ever postseason game winning goal. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.


The Penguins got their game together in the second period, working much more effectively on the forecheck and generating a few more chances. They would eventually break through, and it was Blake Comeau scoring his first career playoff goal. With Maxim Lapierre tying up Dan Boyle in front, it created a distraction for Comeau to hammer home the rebound.

When it looked like Pittsburgh was starting to establish their game, the third line of Kevin Hayes, Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis had a great sustained shift to generate some offense, followed by a solid Brassard line shift. Matt Hunwick would hit the post on a point blank shot, but there were no more goals.

The Rangers got back to playing their game in the third period, outshooting the Penguins early and controlling the pace of play. Most of Pittsburgh’s quality chances came from a bit of sloppy play from the Rangers in their own end, but Lundqvist stood tall. With Fleury pulled, the Penguins could not cash in, and the Rangers secured the win in game one.

I thought the defensive effort from the Rangers was absolutely fantastic. Crosby and Malkin were practically nonfactors, with McDonagh as well as Girardi and Marc Staal totally shutting them down, with no real quality chances for either of them. This is how the Rangers need to play every night against those two guys.

I thought the fourth line was effective again. They spent the majority of their ice time in the Penguins’ zone, playing physically and drawing a few penalties. The physical play and hitting was key, as it really threw the Penguins off early. They also did a great job of not getting involved in the extracurricular stuff, and playing whistle to whistle.

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The Rangers’ fourth line was effective yet again, playing a physical game and drawing a few penalties early. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.


Brassard continues to provide the Rangers with a very solid number one center, and he seems to deliver when the team needs it most. The quick goal energized the Rangers, shook the Garden with the cheers of the fans, and set the tone early on. Brassard was very effective tonight, and came through in the clutch yet again.

Ryan McDonagh did a lot of captainly things tonight. He scored a goal on the power play, his first career playoff game winning goal, shut down Crosby and Malkin, threw the body, blocked shots, and led this team to a win. McDonagh was the Rangers best player in the playoffs last season, leading the team with 17 points, and now he will look to do the same as the Captain of the New York Rangers.

But like Derick Brassard said, “It was a really good effort, but now we have to put it behind us. We’re going to enjoy it tonight, and tomorrow is another day.” This is a best of seven series, and winning Game 2 would be a huge advantage before heading into Pittsburgh. “It’s the first to four, not the first to one,” which is how St. Louis said it, and he’s right.

Late in the game, Dan Girardi was hit in the jaw area with a puck, and left the game, not returning to the ice. Alain Vigneault said afterwards that he was being looked at by a dentist, and that’s the only update. Considering Girardi seems to have titanium bones, and the fact that Vigneault didn’t seem too concerned, I wouldn’t be worries about Girardi’s health.

The Rangers and Penguins will face off again in Game 2 this Saturday at 8 PM.


1) Ryan McDonagh – 1 G, 4 SOG, 3 BS, 2 HT, 25:36 TOT

2) Derick Brassard – 1 G, 5 SOG, 3 HT, 15:45 TOT

3) Henrik Lundqvist – 24 SV, .960 SV%

Posted on April 17, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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