Rangers grind out 4-1 win against Capitals in Game 1

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but the New York Rangers grinded their way to a hard-fought 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series by playing a tight-checking game against an offensively-challenged opponent. They also received two goals from their fourth line, including a series-opening goal from rookie Matt Rempe in the second period.

“You’re here to win game so it’s obviously good to get the first one,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think there were things we could’ve done better … but you can only do one at a time, you need to win one at a time, so the for that, the result was good.”

Jimmy Vesey, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider also scored for the Rangers, and Barclay Goodrow had two assists. Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves.

“It was a big win and also really special for Jimmy, ‘Goody’ and me to have a successful line,” Rempe said. ” Those guys take me under their wing a lot. As a young guy, I love them a lot. So, I was really happy we all had success and the team got the win. So, it was a great night.”

Martin Fehervary scored Washington’s only goal and Charlie Lindgren made 27 saves.

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New York Rangers 4 vs. Washington Capitals 1

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1 was scoreless through 24 minutes of play before the Rangers erupted for three goals in a span of 2:06 early in the second period to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

With all the star power on the ice, it was Rempe, the rugged rookie, who scored the first goal of the series. The Rangers fourth line pushed the puck deep into the offensive zone to get the scoring play started. Goodrow won a puck battle behind the Capitals net, Vesey then chipped the puck through the crease and Rempe banged it into a wide-open net as The Garden erupted at 4:17.

“It’s great to see him get that goal, it was a big goal in the game, obviously, but the look on his face was pretty cool, too,” Vesey said about Rempe.

On the very next shift, the Rangers struck again. And this time it was Panarin cashing in to make it 2-0 at 4:50.

An Alexis Lafreniere hit on Vincent Iorio separated the Capitals defenseman from the puck near his own net. Lafreniere collected the puck and passed to Vincent Trocheck, who quickly found Panarin open at the right circle. Panarin picked his spot and beat Lindgren far side past his glove.

Iorio immediately skated off the ice holding his shoulder. He did not return and the Capitals said he had an upper-body injury. That was big blow for Washington, which was already playing without two injured defensemen, Rasmus Sandin and Nick Jensen.

The play was part of a physical afternoon for Lafreniere, who was credited with five hits and was often engaged with rugged Capitals forward Tom Wilson and others throughout the game. The Rangers outhit the Capitals 31-20.

The Blueshirts fourth line struck again at 6:23 to make it 3-0. Goodrow won a face-off in the right circle and the puck came directly to Vesey. The Rangers forward snapped a shot that appeared to hit Washington defenseman John Carlson and elude a befuddled Lindgren.

Rempe collided with Capitals forward Beck Malenstyn on the play, and Malenstyn went down hard. The on-ice officials conferred and concluded there was no penalty on the play, so the goal stood.

Washington answered back with a goal of their own at 7:31, when Wilson sent a quick pass into the slot that deflected off Fehervary and past Shesterkin to make it 3-1.

The scoreless first period featured tight defensive play and saw each team fail to score on a pair of power-play opportunities. In fact, Rempe was assessed a two-minute penalty for charging on the second shift of the game, just 2:07 into play, but Shesterkin made a beautiful stop on Carlson down low and the Capitals were kept off the scoreboard.

The Capitals had four shots in the first period, only two over the final 15:10. The Rangers finished with seven shots, but had nine other attempts blocked by the Capitals.

“I thought we rebounded pretty well and, obviously, came out better in the second period and started it right,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. “That was the difference in the game, how we came out in the second period.”

Kappo Kakko nearly restored the Rangers’ three-goal lead early in the third period. However, his snap shot off a 2-on-1 rush caromed off the post behind Lindgren at 5:58.

Kreider did eventually make it 4-1, scoring on a breakaway with 3:43 remaining in the game. This was Kreider’s 108th game in the playoffs, second most among all skaters in Rangers history. The goal was his franchise-record 41st in the postseason.

With a minute to play, Wilson engaged with Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider after barreling into Shesterkin’s crease. Wilson and Schneider were assessed 10-minute misconduct penalties, as was defenseman Dylan McIlrath, the former first-round pick by the Rangers who now plays for the Capitals.

Game 2 between the Rangers and Capitals will take place Tuesday at MSG.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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