<
>

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Penguins 1

NEW YORK -- Here's a quick look at the New York Rangers' 2-1 victory Thursday over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

What it means: The Rangers held their ground on home ice, opening the series with the win at Madison Square Garden while holding both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the score sheet. The Blueshirts wasted no time asserting themselves, capitalizing on a juicy rebound from Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and taking a lead just 28 seconds into play. Despite trailing 2-0 after the first period, however, the Pens stuck around to make things interesting, with a strong push in the second period that cut the lead in half. This series might be a lot closer than many think, especially if Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi misses any time. The top-pair blueliner was forced from the game in the third after taking a puck to the face and did not return.

Playing with fire: Penguins coach Mike Johnston could not have been happy to see his team give the Rangers four power-play opportunities in the first period alone in an undisciplined first frame that left the team in a 2-0 hole. The Pens paid for their penalty parade on the Rangers’ third chance on the man advantage, with Ryan McDonagh scoring on a deep slapper with 4 minutes, 44 seconds to play. The Rangers have not always been known for their power-play prowess, and the Penguins boast a league-leading short-handed save percentage, but that’s beside the point. With the Penguins spending so much time on the penalty kill during the first period, Crosby saw only 3:42 of ice time.

Strong surge: A strong second-period shift by Pittsburgh's fourth line of Nick Spaling, Maxim Lapierre and Blake Comeau helped cut the Rangers’ lead in half. With Lapierre wreaking havoc in front of the net, tussling with Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle and creating traffic in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Comeau tallied his first career playoff goal. Comeau, a hard-nosed, energetic forward, has seemed to carve out a nice role with Pittsburgh after bouncing around with several teams. He plays the sort of straightforward, sandpaper game that is suited for a seven-game playoff series -- and he gave the Pens a needed spark Thursday night.

Dangerous territory: Girardi caught a puck coming off Chris Kunitz's stick and looked shaken up as he was helped off the ice in the third period. Earlier in the frame, Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi missed a few shifts as he went off for repairs after taking a stick to the face on a shot follow-through. Scuderi, who has been logging major minutes to aid an injury-ravaged Penguins defense, returned later in the frame.

Fun stat: Derick Brassard's opening tally, which came 28 seconds in, was the second-fastest goal scored at the start of a playoff game in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Ed Hospodar beat Brassard by 1 second, tallying a goal 27 seconds into play in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings on April 9, 1981.

Player to watch: One gets the feeling that Lapierre's is a name Rangers fans will know well before the end of this series. He was doing a terrific job of playing an antagonist's role and getting under some of the Rangers players' skin.

What’s next: Game 2 is set for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.