The only blemish in the Rangers’ 5-1 victory in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday night in Newark was the five penalties they took, which gave the Devils four power-play opportunities and one penalty shot.
It is difficult to harp on that, however, when the Rangers’ penalty kill rose to the challenge in the way it did.
In eight minutes with the man-advantage, the Devils couldn’t put a single shot on goal.
Jack Hughes did make Jacob Trouba pay for a slash he unloaded on the Devils star center during a breakaway late in the third period, scoring on the subsequent penalty shot.
Otherwise, however, goalie Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers were virtually impenetrable on the penalty kill.
“It was good to see, but at the same time, we don’t want to have to kill that many penalties,” said Chris Kreider, who championed the other side of special teams with two power-play goals. “Try to stay out of the box a little more, especially to start a game like that, it’s hard to kind of get the group in a flow. Staying out of the box allows us to do what we do at five-on-five and roll four lines.”
The Rangers were called for three penalties in the first period alone, but their penalty-kill units forced the Devils to the outside and gave little time or space for anything to be generated.
It wasn’t just in the way the Rangers prevented the Devils from scoring. It was the aggression with which their penalty killers willed the puck out of their zone and spit it back out up ice for a couple of shorthanded opportunities.
1. Igor Shesterkin
It wasn’t until Jack Hughes earned a penalty shot late in the third period that Shesterkin allowed the Devils to score. Otherwise, the Russian netminder, who finished with 27 saves, was a brick wall in all situations.
2. Adam Fox
Leading the Rangers with four assists, Fox registered the primary helpers on both of Chris Kreider’s power-play goals and Ryan Lindgren’s critical 3-0 score in the middle frame. He has 20 postseason assists in 24 games, the fewest contests needed to reach that feat in Rangers history.
3. Chris Kreider
With postseason power-play goals No. 13 and No. 14, Kreider not only surpassed Adam Graves for the most man-advantage goals in franchise history, but also became No. 1 on the organizations’ all-time playoff scoring list with 36 total goals.
The Rangers had to fend off three Devils power plays in the opening 20 minutes, but the penalty kill was virtually impenetrable and even created offensive momentum.
It allowed the Rangers to jump out to an early 2-0 lead they never lost.
Follow The Post’s coverage of the Rangers vs. Devils NHL playoff series
Quote of the Day
“I think the hardest game is the one after a win in the playoffs. I’m sure there will be a response from them and some adjustments. We’ll have to raise our level, too.”
— Chris Kreider
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