by: aron nafisi   4/18/2012

The NY Rangers entered training camp this past September with visions of bringing the Stanley Cup to back NY. It's been nearly twenty years since the likes of Messier, Richter, Leach, Beukboom, and Graves raised the Cup on the warm June night in 1994. This season, a much younger squad of Rangers named Lundqvist, Richards, Girardi, Dubinsky, and Gaborik skate in the world’s most famous arena attempt to revive playoff hockey in New York and win the games ultimate prize.

Head coach John Tortorella who won a championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004, is well aware of the work that is needed to be put in to with an NHL title. After sneaking into the playoffs on the last day of the 2011 season, the Rangers knew that many improvements were needed to achieve success. New York Rangers management raised the bar this past off-season by signing superstar center Brad Richards to a nine year $60 million dollar contract. The Rangers also kept a very close eye on their superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist this past off-season since he looked very fatigued in last season’s playoffs. The Blue Shirts started the season in style with six straight wins and went 11 out of 13. New York sent three players along with head coach John Tortorella to this season's All-Star game in Ottawa. The Rangers were also selected to play in this year's Winter Classic game on January 2, in which they played and beat their division rivals Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 outdoors at Citizens Bank Park. There have been many highlights as well this season including an impressive victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins on the road on January 21st, and a 4-0 shutout of the soaring Vancouver Canucks on October 18th. 

The Rangers finished the season with an impressive 51 wins and 109 points, good for first place in the Eastern Conference and second in the National Hockey League. They also finished in top five in the league in ten different categories on their way to clinching the Atlantic division and a first round matchup against the eight seeded Ottawa Senators. This marked the first time in nearly two decades in which the Rangers were able to lock up a number one seed in their conference. 

Game one was held at Madison Square Garden on Thursday evening; both teams had four days off to prepare for the series opener. The Rangers scored first on Ryan Callahan's goal at the 12:01 mark of the first period which was assisted by Stralman and Anisimov. Both goaltenders tightened up throughout the second period until Marian Gaborik scored an unassisted goal late in the period which was followed by another goal by Brian Boyle just minutes later to give the NY a 3-0 lead heading into the second intermission. Brad Richards drove the nail in the coffin 2:15 into the third period when he buried a pass from Hagelin to make it 4-0. The Senators scored two goals late in the third period, but ultimately fell to the Rangers 4-2 as NY took a 1-0 series lead. 

Game two was held at the Garden once again just two nights later. The Rangers struck first again when Anton Starlman found the back of the net on a power play goal at the 10:11 mark of the first period. After getting pushed around in a Game 1 loss, the Senators sent a message in the first period that would not be the case in Game 2. Several fights broke out, many punches were thrown, and penalty minutes given out. Senator’s winger Erik Karlson scored a game tying power play goal to tie the game early in the second period. Just three minutes into the third period, the Rangers took the lead on Brian Boyle’s slap shot. But with just minutes remaining in regulation and the Garden crowd smelling yet another Rangers victory, the Senators quickly quieted the crowd with a Nick Foligno goal to tie the game once again. Regulation ended in a tie and the game was headed to sudden death overtime at the Garden. Finally, it was Chris Neil scoring 1:17 into overtime to lift the Senators to a 3-2 comeback victory at Madison Square Garden that evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

Game three was held on Monday night at the Scotia Bank Place in Kanata, ON, as both teams came out playing physical once again. The game was scoreless through the first two periods as the Senators outshot the Rangers 26 to 16. But midway through the third period, Brian Boyle lit up the lamp to give the Blue Shirts a 1-0 on goal that was assisted by Callahan and Girardi. Both teams skated back and forth on the ice taking shots from every angle possible. But at the end, goalie Henrik Lundqvist did what he does best by stopping all 39 shots on goal to give the Rangers 2-1 series lead.

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