Antti Raanta made 21 saves for his first career playoff shutout and Brendan Smith’s shorthanded goal in the second period was the game winner.
After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour, along with Sebastian Aho, Brendan Smith and Antti Raanta spoke with the media. Here’s what they had to say:
On Antti Raanta’s performance: That’s kind of what we talked about last series. You’re always happy for the guys to get these moments. Moment the other night for [Ian Cole]. Moment tonight with [Brendan Smith] getting a big goal. That’s why you play the game and you love to see the guys enjoy the game. It’s a stressful game, stressful position for Raanta and it’s nice to see him helping us win games, but also to enjoy it.
On the penalty kill’s success: You have be [successful] against these guys. Their power play is so good and obviously that was the difference in the game tonight. You don’t want to be in that position, taking penalties against them, but obviously they’re going to happen. The guys did a great job tonight.
On shutting it down in the third period: We have a good defense. We have a really solid group back there. You’re going to have to earn your chances for the most part against us. Against both teams really, because we’re not getting much going the other way either. Both teams are fighting for every inch out there. It’s playoff hockey and both teams are laying it on the line, but I do think we have good group back there.
On being able to win in different ways: We’ve done that all year. You’ve watched us all year. High-scoring games, low-scoring games. I feel like we have the capability and all good teams do, for whatever way the games going. You’ve got to have high-scoring guys, guys that can put it in the net and I think we can do that. And obviously these two games have been low-scoring. But the teams that are pumping it in at this time of the year, they can adapt their game.
On if he immediately believed that Raanta could take them all the way once Frederik Andersen went down: Yep. Yeah, for sure. I mean your immediate reaction when you lose your number one guy who’s been... this year he was one of the best goalies in the league. That’s a kick. It’s not something you want heading into the best time of the year. But we had seen enough of Raanta and he had just been solid. I don’t know if we anticipated him being better since he’s played in the playoffs, but we certainly had confidence in his ability.
On why the defense has been carrying the scoring burden so much this postseason: I think it’s just that not a lot of other guys are scoring. That’s really the better question. All the teams generate offense from the blueline and right now we’ve got a few lately from some guys you wouldn’t expect, but just the way the games coached by everybody is that the D is always up in the rush, the D is always expected to contribute and for whatever reason here lately, they’ve had a few go in.
On if he felt the compete was at its highest in the third period: I think it’s been high every game, every period. But obviously at that point of the game, everybody has to be on point because you don’t want to give up that one. The two teams were really fighting hard and nobody was taking a breath out there.
On if he’s happy with how the team got the win: I’ll take a win anyway we can at this time of the year, but I think it was a great team effort and we stuck to what we had to do to get the win. And everyone contributed in that manner. That’s positive for sure.
On if he feels the intensity of the game on the bench: There’s no doubt. You’re not playing the game. You don’t really have any impact on the game, but you’re certainly feel a part of it. It’s the next best thing to being out there, being behind the bench with your guys. It may not show, but there is definitely that intensity and nerves in what’s going on.
On Antti Raanta’s performances this postseason: It’s great to see. The team gets a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence in their own play when you see your goalie playing at that level. He’s been unbelievable. I’m happy for the guy and it’s a good situation with him.
On if there’s anything about the Rangers’ power play that makes him feel like he has more opportunity to create shorthanded chances: No, not really. They’re just random plays. I’m not there to score a goal, I’m there to kill a penalty. But for some reason today, I got a couple of loose pucks here and there and obviously if I can meet the puck and be the first on it, then I have the green light to go.
On having confidence in Raanta: You never want to see your teammate go down and the level [Andersen] was playing at the whole year was unreal, so obviously it hurt, but we had a lot of confidence in Raanta. The way he played, he played a little bit less than [Andersen] at the time, but every time he was in the net, he played very well. We weren’t too worried about it, but obviously that’s what good teams do. Guy goes down and the next one steps up and fills the hole. Raanta has been unreal.
On the set up for the shorthanded goal: I didn’t watch the D-man there... Actually I was because [Smith] was on the backdoor there. I was just trying to fit the pass through and I saw [Smith] going hard to the back post so I kind of more of did an area pass I’d sort of say. I’m glad it worked out.
On if he was surprised to see Smith on the other side of the 2-on-1: A little bit to be honest. But it was a great read by him and a huge goal.
On the power play’s troubles: I don’t know. I can give you a better answer tomorrow. I have to see the video and see what they did and what we didn’t do good enough. But 5-on-3 is a big scoring opportunity and it’s a good thing it didn’t cost us the game today. We have to be sharper in the future.
On winning games in different ways: It’s just the team has been comfortable to play in every situation. We came back last game and today we defended really well in the third. We didn’t give them much out there. We’ve been able to win hockey games in many different ways and it’s huge at this time of the year.
On what the team was doing to shutdown the Rangers’ top players: First off, [Staal]’s line has been huge for us. They’ve been playing really good hockey and wearing their top guys down and giving us a lot of momentum. That could be one reason. Obviously, the way we play, we try to give up nothing. They’re high-end players and we try to take their time and space away and create some puck pressure. That’s how we want to play.
On it being a complete game for him: I wanted to set the tempo. Play hard defensively. That’s just really what [Cole] and I want to do. Just be solid defensively and if I can chip in offensively, that’s a bonus. I’ll take it as a good game.
On if being physical gets him into the game: For sure. I think it gets a lot of people into the game, but for me, probably a little bit more because that’s more my style. I love it because you’re engaged right off the bat.
On what they did well to be so successful defensively: Just are compete and battle level was high and that’s what we need. Obviously they’re great players and you have to tip your cap to them because they just kept coming in waves, but I thought we took away their time and space. That’s really the biggest thing. There was a lot of areas where [Panarin] turns up and tries to create space and if you stay with him and try to take that space away from him, he can’t make those elite plays. He still does, and that’s what players like him do, but if you can take his space away and stay close to him, you can maybe get your stick on a shot or a pass and I saw a lot of guys doing that. It’s good for us. They played well. They had no quit in their game and we were just fortunate to get one on the shorty and bunker down and Raanta was playing phenomenally for us.
On what about Raanta made him so ready for the opportunity: I just think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s done, right? I think coming in and harnessing the moment and stepping in and playing the way he has has been phenomenal. It’s a testament to how hard he works in practice. I think that’s where it really comes from, is that he battles in practice. He doesn’t want to get scored on at any time, whether it’s just one of those little shootout games in practice and I think it carries over. Whenever I’ve watched good goalies, and I think about Henrik Lundqvist in my mind, where he never wanted to be scored on even in practice and he’d get upset when he did. And maybe that wore off on [Raanta] by playing with [Lundqvist], but I just think it’s incredible. We’ve definitely needed it and he’s stepped up to it.
On what he saw leading up to his shorthanded goal: We did a good job on the line. They weren’t able to break in cleanly and then [Teravainen] I saw get to the puck first and [Teravainen] just makes great plays and he chipped it into a space where I saw [Aho] moving. So I just tried to get going as fast as I could and find the lane and [Aho] is an elite passer. We’ve seen that and he put it right on the money. I can’t take too much credit for it, but it was a good read by a lot of players.
On what was essentially a 1-0 playoff win feels like: As a defenseman it’s great. I think it’s even great for [Brind’Amour]. I think that’s a coaches dream, a 1-0, 2-0 win. We obviously like that. In the game, there wasn’t a lot both ways and that’s a good playoff game. The fans don’t like it as much, but for us in the room, it’s a lot better.
On getting prepared for the playoffs: I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of playoff games, especially when I played with the Red Wings. So I’ve had a taste of it and I love playoff time. For me, it’s not hard to get up for these games. I just try to keep myself prepared and ready. Whatever happens during the year... like I said before, I envisioned myself playing at this time and I think you have to. Now, I’m just doing whatever I have to to help the team. When things get tighter, I think my style of hockey is effective so it’s worked out for me.
On if finding different ways to win games gives the team confidence: I think if we just stick to our style, it’s eventually going to wear on teams and we’re going to find a way to win. You can’t win the game in the first period and I think by the third period, it’s just that wear and tear. [Brind’Amour] calls it the stress game. If we can continue to do that, we’re going to find those chances and it’s going to go our way. Sometimes it doesn’t, that’s just hockey. That’s the bounces of the game, but if we stay that way and play as close to a 60 minute game of our style, we give ourselves the best chance to win. That’s why I think you find that we might comeback or we might hold on to a lead. That’s just why those kinds of different styles of games we can win. If we just stick to our style, I think it takes care of us.
On where his goal ranks for himself: This one ranks pretty high, if not the highest. Obviously everyone remembers their first and you kind of remember your first with each team. My first here was a big one too, but playoff goals, I don’t have many of them, but this might be the best one.
On the importance of the next two games and finding a way to win on the road: Those are massive and it’s something we need to talk about to get ourselves ready. We weren’t happy with losing three on the road. We’ve got to dial it up. I think what happened a little bit when we were in Boston, was that we took too many penalties. That’s an area that we’re going to be aware of and make sure we keep pushing here.
On if it helps having a good number of players already familiar with MSG: For sure. I think anytime you have familiarity it helps. I think more than anything, there’s just a lot of guys with playoff experience and I would take that more than just MSG experience, but it plays into for sure.
On gaining more confidence as the postseason goes on: It’s obviously a team effort to get the shutout. I didn’t feel like I needed to do that many like huge saves, but our guys were making sure there was no backdoor plays or easy shots. Obviously the PK was huge for us today and that last three minutes was huge also. The guys helped me a lot for sure.
On going head to head against Igor Shesterkin who is up for both the Hart and Vezina trophy: I think it’s a matchup like team versus team and individuals against individuals, but obviously it’s a great battle. It’s great to go up against top goalies in the league. You try to do your best and do whet you can do and hopefully get a win. We knew when the series started that we weren’t going to get any easy ones and we have to work to get our goals so it’s a fun battle, but it’s more concentrating on your own thing and focusing on that.
On if knowing the team is facing a top goalie raises the pressure for him: I think that’s pretty true. I think that’s when you know like you can’t start giving up easy rebounds or easy goals or like that. Sometimes those happen, but you just try to be as prepared as you can be going into the game and just making sure that when there’s a shot, you make the save to the corner or things like that. Just try to battle till the end. I think you do get a little more on your toes when you know that the other goalie is top in the league.
On if his time with Henrik Lundqvist rubbed off on him: When I was in New York, what Hank was doing there was kind of eye opening for me. It was probably his seventh or eight year in the league and every year he was one of the best goalies. The reason he was the best goalie was because he was always working, always trying to get better and things like that. [Benoit Allaire] is one of the best in the league as a goalie coach and as a human being so it was a lot of fun to work with him and get to know Hank too. Now you see Shesterkin. He fights till the end and he moves unbelievably and he makes the saves when he has to and sometimes those huge highlight reel saves. Obviously probably that comes from New York.
On if he’s changed his preparation any knowing he’s the starter: Probably. When you start playing more games, you start getting into more of a rhythm also. You’re not really thinking too much about what’s happening. You just go and play and it almost feels like that when a game starts, you’re already ready to play. Sometimes when you’re waiting a few weeks to get to your next game, your mind starts playing their own games and you’re questioning yourself and things like that. Now it’s just about taking care of your body on the off days and getting ready for the game again. I think playing every second day is nice as you stay in the rhythm. Not really much that I’ve changed. Now it’s just more games.
On the team sticking to it’s style: I think it was a complete team effort today. Getting pucks deep, defending really well, the PK was working and obviously the third period was really good. Kept them outside and then got the pucks out when we needed. I think it was one of the best 60 minutes, for sure, in this playoffs. It’s up to us to keep doing the same thing and get to New York.
On what the support of the fans has meant to him: It’s a lot of fun. These are the games that you always dreamed of playing and you always hope to get these games and get good results. Now you’re here and when you win... the fans have been unbelievable here. Going to the games and the fans are yelling and making noise. During the games, they give us a lot of energy when we’re down or killing a penalty or something like that. It’s special and something you’ll probably never forget. Just going to enjoy every second of it and when you get older you’ll remember these things for sure.