NEW YORK | Ruslan Fedotenko’s philosophy is easy.
“Defensive priority is No. 1,” the veteran forward said after the New York Rangers’ 3-1 victory in Game 1 over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Fedotenko took it to heart. Saturday he was a key piece on a big five-on-three kill by the Rangers and was one of the better players on the ice in the defensive zone and on the forecheck.
“When we basically benched him towards the end of the year, that was part of our conversation with him,” coach John Tortorella said. “We knew how important he was going to be for playoffs. We just needed to, I think, get him ready for that.”
Fedotenko looked more than ready. He had the primary assist on Artem Anisimov’s goal that opened the scoring, and he was a force for much of the afternoon.
Tortorella pointed to Fedotenko’s experience on two Stanley Cup champion teams, the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning and 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Not only this game but throughout the series, the past series against Ottawa, he did a lot of little things that a lot of people don’t see, but that’s a key part,” Tortorella said. “That’s why he has two tattoos on his shoulder as far as Stanley Cups: He’s very good in those little situations and he certainly was big tonight.”
While Braden Holtby talked about Game 1 being hard to get up for “mentally-wise,” because of the low shot total, Henrik Lundqvist had no such issues.
Lundqvist made 17 saves on 18 shots to pick up his 20th career playoff victory. The Vezina Trophy front-runner for top goaltender in the regular season and Hart Trophy finalist for NHL MVP was prepared.
“I saw some games when they played against Boston. They don’t shoot a lot. They stay back and wait for mistakes. If we stay patient, I think it’s going to be a tight game. … It may not be the most fun to watch sometimes, but the most important thing for us is to win.”
With forwards Bradon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle out of the Rangers’ lineup, ex-Caps defenseman Steve Eminger got back in. But it wasn’t for long.
Eminger played a game-low 4:25.