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National Hockey League

Rangers aim for 2-0 lead against Devils

(Sports Network) - The top-seeded New York Rangers will try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals tonight when they host the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

New York is in the conference finals for the first time since 1997 and grabbed the early lead in this series with a 3-0 victory in Monday's Game 1. The 3-0 win was the largest margin of victory by New York in this year's playoffs and the Atlantic Division champions have yet to hold a two-game lead at any point during this postseason.

Although New York only had one off day between eliminating Washington in Game 7 on Saturday and Monday's contest, the Blueshirts did not appear to be fatigued in Game 1 against the Devils. The score was tied at 0-0 after two periods, but the Rangers dominated the final stanza to take Game 1 from sixth- seeded New Jersey. Dan Girardi scored the game-winner just 53 seconds into the third period for New York and Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to record his second shutout of this postseason.

Girardi, Artem Anisimov and Chris Kreider each posted a goal and an assist for the Rangers, who also needed seven games to defeat the Ottawa Senators in the first round.

"We just kept to our game plan and stuck with it," said New York head coach John Tortorella. "Our whole team skated well tonight and we got some big plays when we needed them."

New York has won seven of the last eight playoff series in which it has taken Game 1.

Martin Brodeur turned aside 25-of-27 shots for the Devils, who defeated the Panthers in seven games in the opening round then took down the Flyers in five games in the second round to make the conference finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 2003.

"Once they got the first one we had to open things up a bit and they were able to take advantage," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "We can't get frustrated by something we expected to happen. They play good defense over there and we have to find a way to counter that."

This series is a rematch of the 1994 conference finals, which the Rangers won in seven games before going on to win their most recent Stanley Cup. New York hasn't been back to the Cup Finals since winning it all 18 years ago.

"I think this is going to be our toughest series yet," said Lundqvist. "It's going to be tight out there and it will be a big battle. I don't know how many games this is going to go, but it's going to be good."

For the Rangers, this was their first win in the Eastern finals since a 5-4 decision at Philadelphia in Game 2 of that series on May 18, 1997. It was the Blueshirts' first home ECF victory since May 27, 1994, a 2-1 double-overtime triumph over the Devils in Game 7.

The Rangers are 6-3 on home ice in the playoffs, while New Jersey is 4-4 as the guest. This series will shift to Newark for Games 3 and 4 and the Devils will host the next contest on Saturday.

As Atlantic Division combatants, the Devils and Rangers met six times during the regular season and each team won three of those tilts. New York held a slight advantage in goals, scoring 14 times in the season series while holding the Devils to 12 tallies over the six contests.

The Blueshirts have dominated the postseason history against the Devils, winning four of the five all-time playoff series between the clubs. New Jersey's only triumph came in the form of a sweep in the 2006 conference quarterfinals, but the Rangers avenged that loss by eliminating the Devils in five games in the opening round of the 2008 postseason.

05/16 11:06:29 ET

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