NEW YORK -- Rangers rookie Chris Kreider and defenseman Dan Girardi both had a goal and an assist in the third period, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots for his fifth career playoff shutout, as weary New York opened the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-0 victory over the well-rested New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
The top-seeded Rangers hit their home ice and won their third straight Game 1 of these playoffs. The Devils had been off for five days since they knocked out the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
No team forced to play a seven-game series in each of the first two rounds has gone on to win the Stanley Cup, but the Rangers are determined to be the first. Shaking off suggestions they are tired, the Rangers slogged through two scoreless periods and pulled out a win with a dominating third period.
The Rangers are in the conference finals for the first time since 1997, and they haven't reached the Stanley Cup finals since 1994 when they beat 22-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur and the Devils in a classic seven-game series that backed up captain Mark Messier's guarantee.
New Jersey is making its first conference finals appearance since 2003, the year the Devils won the Cup for the third time.
Richards to stay as Jackets coach
COLUMBUS -- Todd Richards will stay on as the Columbus Blue Jackets' coach.
Richards became interim coach in January when Scott Arniel was fired.
The team said Monday that he had agreed to a two-year contract after the Blue Jackets' record improved under the 45-year-old former Minnesota Wild coach.
Details of the deal were not released.
Richards led Columbus for the final 41 games of the season after being elevated from assistant coach.
General manager Scott Howson said the team showed continuous improvement, going 18-21-2 under Richards' direction.
The Blue Jackets finished the season with the NHL's worst record at 29-46-7.
Richards led Minnesota to a 38-36-8 record in 2009-10 and a 39-35-8 mark in 2010-11 before joining Columbus as an assistant last summer.
Hunter steps aside: Dale Hunter is finished as coach of the Washington Capitals after less than one full season, telling the team he wants to return to his family in Canada.
Hunter said: "It was the right thing to do."
He told general manager George McPhee of the decision Monday, two days after the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs by the Rangers in Game 7.
Hunter was hired in November to replace the fired Bruce Boudreau and went 30-23-7 during the remainder of the regular season to help the Capitals squeeze into the playoffs. Playing a defense-first, possession-oriented system, Washington eliminated reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston in the first round. Hunter also limited captain Alex Ovechkin's minutes.
McPhee said Hunter "got everything out of this team that he could."