It took the New York Rangers almost 41 minutes before they were able to solve Martin Brodeur. However, when Dan Girardi’s slap shot from the blue line beat Brodeur 53 seconds into the third period, the Garden faithful rained down choruses of the sing-song chant of “Maaarty! Maaarty!”

After the first period, you just got the feeling that the two teams were already playing overtime hockey because it seemed the teams were playing a version of “next goal wins” – a feeling that Devils Coach Peter DeBoer shared.

“I think whoever was going to score first tonight was going to win and they threw a point shot at the net that found a way through,” DeBoer admitted to Tom Gulitti of The Record. “We threw a lot of those at the net, too, and didn’t find one through. So that was the story of the game. And we’ve been in this spot before. We were down 1-0 to Philly and we know how to handle this.”

That is the precise reason why the Rangers need to step up their play in Game 2. During a playoff run where the Blueshirts have done everything the hard way, they can do themselves – and their fans – a big favor by jumping out to a two games to none lead.

The Blueshirts need to stay focused and continue to play their game and find a way to increase the urgency they showed in Game 1 – minus the adrenalin rush – because the Devils sure will try to find a way to increase their urgency while holding on to their style of play.

“They get a goal and all of a sudden we change our game a little bit,” Patrik Elias responded to Gulitti. “We can’t do that. We have to learn from this game tonight. It doesn’t matter what happens out there. We have to stay with our game.”

The fact that Girardi was the one who put the Rangers ahead for good was a little poetic justice given how much he struggled during the first two periods. So much so that Coach John Tortorella benched him for about six minutes in the rocky second period.

“It wasn’t our best two periods,” Girardi told Dave Lozo of “We had to just go hard, play our style of game and work hard on the forecheck and it worked out for us. I saw (Kreider) coming up the wall there and I was delaying to see what he was going to do. I saw no one got to the point and I kind of stepped into it and got it through.”

Speaking of Kreider, how many people reflected back to his goal in Game 1 of the Washington series? Both shots featured a quick release, a laser shot with a goal scorer’s accuracy and touch.

Ryan McDonagh, who stepped up to save the Rangers’ bacon with a couple of great defensive recoveries, spoke about Kreider.

“It’s awesome. He’s got a lethal shot and if he gets a second to get it off, scary things can happen,” McDonagh told Rick Carpiniello of the Journal News. We just told him to keep moving his feet and keep moving his legs and get in on the forecheck. Him and Hags (Carl Hagelin) are key guys for us and it’s great for him to score that goal.”

For his part, Kreider has his priorities straight and realizes what he needs to do to stay in Coach John Tortorella’s good graces.

“I’m learning some things that are obviously important,” Kreider said to Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal. “I made several mistakes tonight, miscues in the defensive zone. I’ll have to look at the tape.”

For all of Girardi’s and Kreider’s heroics, it might have been for naught if Henrik Lundqvist did not channel his inner Mike Richter about five minutes into the second period.

“Hank is huge for us back there,” Girardi told Ira Podell of the Associated Press. “We were struggling a little bit in our defensive zone and he was there to bail us out. That’s what happened. He made some big saves, and in the third period we came out hard and got a couple of goals for him.”

With the Rangers on the power play, Lundqvist made three rapid-fire saves on Zach Parise to maintain the scoreless tie – similar to Richter’s flurry of saves in the Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver.

“I saw him coming across,” Parise told Rich Chere of the star-Ledger. “I tried to go five-hole the first time. It felt like the puck just kept coming back to me and he was able to make the saves. He covers the low part of the ice real well. When you get in tight he challenges and there’s not a lot of room. I was just trying to chip one over him. T here was still a lot of hockey after that.”

On a personal note, last night represented to my first appearance at the Garden for a playoff game since 1996. After witnessing the entire Stanley Cup run in 1994, and then facing such a long “playoff layoff”, you tend to forget just how loud and crazy MSG can be in the playoffs.

Of course, the way NBC tends to pot down the crowd noise does not do the television viewer any favors when it comes to capturing the atmosphere when the Garden crowd is loud and proud – as they were during the “Maaarty! Maaarty” chants.

As great as it was to be at the Garden, it was even better to have the opportunity to take my wife Roe to her first playoff game. Talk about a kid in a candy store! As a veteran diehard Ranger fan for over 40 years, it really is cool to experience the game through her eyes. Between that experience and not having to endure Pierre McGuire, it was certainly money well spent.

It was kind of interesting checking out the Devils’ fans lamenting the delay of game penalty that was not called on Michael Del Zotto behind the Rangers net prior to the rush that set up Kreider’s goal.

Since we were sitting in the corner of that end of the ice, yeah, the Rangers probably did get away with a penalty. Then again, I didn’t hear or read those fans complaining about the couple of phantom hooking calls that went against the Rangers. Besides, Karl Alzner made a career out pulling the puck under him during the Capital series.

Or as Roe said, “Tell them to build a bridge and get over it.”

It is great to see how the Rangers are embracing Tortorella’s mantra that being tired is an option for the Blueshirts.

“There’s no excuse to be tired and that doesn’t matter to us,” Girardi related to Gross. “It might be better for us to come back and play another game instead of sitting around trying to think about it. They came out hard and were fresh and I thought we did a good job trying to match their intensity. I thought we had a good third period and got the job done.”

During my research for this recap, I came across the following anecdote on how the Rangers changed their scouting ways that was relayed by Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal.

“During a meeting of the Rangers’ scouting staff a few years ago, according to Gordie Clark, the team’s vice president of player personnel, general manager Glen Sather emphasized the need for NHL franchises to target players with exceptional speed. From scoring to checking to retrieving the puck, swiftness was becoming a treasured commodity in the game, and Sather’s recommendation, Clark said, in part led the Rangers to draft both Hagelin and Kreider.

‘I ask my scouts to do so much background checking now because the city can be a monster,’ he said, ‘and we have to make sure when we’re bringing somebody in here that they can handle it.’”

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