On Easter Sunday, the Rangers fell behind in the series, 2-1. From that point on, the Rangers got in the driver’s seat and took control of the series. They tallied three consecutive wins to win the series, 4-2. Two of those final three wins came at home, which is nice to see after the previous struggles.
Game Five was tight and went to overtime for the second time in the series. The Rangers took their game to the next level during the overtime period. They dominated from the start of overtime, until the point that they scored. The Canadiens were barely able to get the puck into the Rangers zone. The Rangers outshot Montreal, 10-3 in the overtime with the game winning goal coming 14:22 in from Mika Zibanejad. Chris Kreider glided down the left side of the ice and let off a shot that deflected off the Montreal defender and wound up on the stick of Zibanejad, who was able to bury it past Carey Price. It was great to see how determined the Rangers looked in overtime, but it also makes you wonder why they could not play that way earlier in the game.
Coming back home Saturday for Game Six, the Rangers were in position to close out the series in front of their fans. Just like almost every game of this series, it was another close one. Montreal took a first period lead with a goal from Alexei Emelin. The overall vibe of the first period was not very good for the Rangers. The Canadiens led in shots, 11-6 during the first period, but it went deeper than that. Montreal’s forecheck was very strong and they seemed to beat the Rangers to every loose puck. The Rangers were actually pretty lucky to go into the first intermission only down one goal.
The second period is when the Rangers turned things around. What ever coach Alain Vigneault said to them in the locker room seemed to work. At this point in the series, the Rangers were 0-14 on the power play, which is pitiful. You need to be able to capitalize with a man advantage in the playoffs. This finally changed 2:26 into the period with a power play goal from Mats Zuccarello. About ten minutes later, Zuccarello buried his second goal of the period to give the Rangers the lead. The Rangers would keep the lead from this point on, cementing the victory with an empty net goal from Derek Stepan.
The MVP of the series for the New York Rangers was Henrik Lundqvist and that comes as no surprise. Lundqvist elevates his play every year in the playoffs. When the Ranger’s skaters were slacking, it was Lundqvist who kept them in games. While protecting the lead, Lundqvist made multiple key saves, including an absolute scorcher from Shea Weber. You could hear the puck hit his glove with such force that it made your hand hurt while watching at home.
When the Rangers have Lundqvist behind them playing like this, they are capable of beating any team in the league. After posting some of the worst regular season numbers of his career, he opens up the playoffs with an excellent first round performance. Two of the league’s best goalies went to battle and Henrik Lundqvist was able to outlast Carey Price and help the Rangers come out on top.
It is off to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals for the Rangers and they now know who their opponent will be. It is another trip to Canada for a match up against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators defeated the Bruins in six games to advance. The Senators took two of three regular season games against the Rangers this year. However, there should not be too much to worry about based on regular season series. The Canadiens swept the Rangers during the regular season and we saw how that went. Another reason to be confident is that Montreal is better than Ottawa and the Rangers were able to take care of business against them.