If ever there was a game that begged for the HBO camera crews to return, it was Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.
After two periods of sleepy hockey filled with unforgivable turnovers, the Rangers exploded to life in the third period. If the HBO cameras were there, we'd be able to know just what John Tortorella said to put some life into his team.
It had to be a speech for the ages, because the Rangers played the final 20 minutes like a completely different team. They flew past the Devils as if Tortorella's words were actually propelling them forward.
Or maybe it was just that he decided to give Chris Kreider more ice time. It took just 53 seconds of play in the third for Dan Girardi to score the first goal of the game, set up by Kreider beating his man to the puck and then using his strength to hold the puck long enough for Girardi to fly into the offensive zone for a slap shot past Martin Brodeur.
A little more than 11 minutes later, Kreider doubled the Rangers' lead when he buried a pretty feed from Artem Anisimov. Henrik Lundqvist took care of the rest, stopping 21 Devils shots overall for his second shutout of the playoffs.
Anisimov put the puck into an empty net for an emphatic 3-0 series opening win for the Rangers. They carried the play for much of the night and their fits of sloppiness were responsible for just about every quality Devils chance.
Kreider has a little thing for Games One. He had a goal and an assist in Game One against the Capitals as well and his playoff coming out party has been huge for a Ranger team short on forwards.
Kreider also took a penalty shortly after his goal which elicited the kind of grin from Tortorella that doesn't call to mind amusement so much as imminent explosion.
The first two periods weren't much to watch. There were some moments of inspired play, but they paled in comparison to the battles of attrition in the middle third of the ice and the parade of blocked shots that has become the calling card of this Rangers season.
The two best Devils chances of the first period came on breakaways by Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk that Ryan McDonagh helped erase by getting back quickly on defense. The hardest chances that Lundqvist saw in the second period were three straight point-blank stops against Zach Parise while the Rangers were actually on a power play.
Girardi's goal opened the game up, though. The Devils were forced to come out a bit and the Rangers then got more room to counterattack, leading to some long stretches of enjoyable hockey.
The score stayed 1-0, though, because Lundqvist and Brodeur both came up with highlight reel stops. Lundqvist robbed Kovalchuk 90 seconds after Girardi's goal and Brodeur made a sprawling gem of a save on Staal a few minutes later.
Brodeur couldn't stop Kreider, though, and the Rangers drew first blood in this historically rich Battle of the Hudson, thanks to the offensive work of a player who had never faced the Devils before. There are worse ways to kick off an Eastern Conference finals.