The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers were coming off Game 7 wins Monday, so while Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal started off slowly, it eventually built into a more offensive affair, with the bend-but-don't-break tactic for the Blueshirts finally giving way after 95 minutes Thursday night in Boston.
After a rather forgettable first period, the two teams put together an entertaining last 30 minutes of regulation, and overtime mostlyconsisted of the Rangers holding on for dear life, but relying on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to keep the game going.
It certainly was a game reminicient of the two teams' previous series, as the Rangers spent the early part of the Washington series on their heels and looking for the counter-punch, while the Bruins were pressing late just as they did in their dramatic win over the Maple Leafs Monday.
For the first battle of the two Original 6 franchises since 1973, it certainly took a flair for the dramatic, with the Rangers sandwiching two goals 16 seconds apart around the second intermission, while Johnny Boychuk hit the post with just one-tenth of a second left in regulation.
But in the end, the Rangers were back on their heels for the third period and overtime, outshot 28-14 in that span, not counting several posts Boston hit in that time frame.
Boston was able to use its speed a bit more as the game progressed, generating chances and once again, the Rangers relied on Lundqvist to try and keep them in a game they likely would have been out of well before the end of regulation without his talent. The more the clock wound on, the more the ice tilted the Bruins' way, and it seemed like New York would only be able to steal the game and home-ice would be with a goal off a counterpunch.
But for New York, it never came.
Tuukka Rask was good for Boston, although the two Ranger tallies late in the second and early in the third weren't great goals to give up, but he was able to hold the Rangers off the board with some nice saves of his own.
Of course, Zdeno Chara was a big factor for Boston, not only scoring the Bruins' first goal and an assist on the overtime game-winner, but he also played 38:02 of ice time for a team needing some stability on its blueline. He was able to log some long shifts without much of a drop off, and also poured nine of Boston's 48 shots on Lundqvist.
For the Rangers, Lundqvist continued to be the story, although at some point, for New York to grab another series win, he likely will need a bit more help up front from his teammates. While the Blueshirts were able to overcome Washington's pressure over seven games, at some point, with Boston's speed, New York likely can't expect a repeat with more offensive punch.
A major concern for the Rangers is the continuing struggle of the power-play unit, which is operating at a sputtering 6.4 percent clip, 2-for-31 in eight games so far. Statistically, New York is almost as effective at 5-on-5 as with the extra-man through the postseason, andwith the Rangers averaging just 2.25 goals-per-game, that doesn't give Lundqvist a whole lot of margin for error.
Both teams get two days off before Sunday afternoon's Game 2, and the Rangers will need to get their top guns going sooner or later - particularly with the power play - for them to see if they can pull off another series win.