Flyers grounded by Pens
FPenguins 4, Flyers 1
or most of the one-sided 60 minutes, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be replaying last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury certainly made it seem that way.
The Penguins got a goal and an assist each from Crosby and Malkin and shut down the frustrated Flyers’ fleet of scorers for a 4-1 victory Wednesday night in the opening game of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Fleury, idle for long stretches in the first two periods as his teammates controlled play at the other end, made 26 saves to help the Penguins win their fourth consecutive conference playoff series opener.
“It was important not because of last year, but because you want to start the series off right. But last year’s done . . . I don’t think that was in anybody’s mind,” Crosby said. “We certainly want to be tough at home and establish that early.”
The Flyers didn’t like it, either, ending the game with three players in the penalty box as they tried to send a message through some physical play that Game 2 on Friday night won’t be so easy.
“We know that their style. That’s how they play,” Fleury said. “But it’s nice to see how the guys handled it with no problem and just moved on.”
The Penguins put the pressure on early, built a multiple-goal lead while not letting Philadelphia — which had an NHL-high six players with 25 or more goals — sustain any offence. They also leaned on Fleury to make the big saves when the Flyers did make a push.
They also waited for Flyers mistakes, and there were plenty of them — the first of which was Philadelphia not holding a third-period lead Sunday at home against the Rangers. New York’s 4-3 victory meant the Flyers opened the series in Pittsburgh rather than on their home ice, and it made a difference.
“I thought we played our game, everyone’s rolling,” said Tyler Kennedy, who scored early in the second to make it 2-0. “It’s huge winning the first game, but Game 1 ends tonight. The next game is big.”
Rangers 4, Capitals 3
If goaltending wins in the playoffs, the New York Rangers’ Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals might be worth more than an early series lead.
There was nothing but praise for Henrik Lundqvist’s performance following the Rangers’ 4-3 win Wednesday night. The New York goalie made 32 saves, and the three shots that got by him were hardly his fault.
Around the corner, in the home locker room at the Verizon Center, there was plenty of finger-pointing at Jose Theodore — by himself. And his coach didn’t exactly disagree.
“There’s times when you sit there, you need the save, and he didn’t make the save when we needed it,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.
“Just wasn’t good enough,” said Theodore, who stopped only 17 of 21 shots — and was unable to get his glove on Brandon Dubinsky’s winner with 8:17 remaining.
The Rangers can only rejoice in the uncertainly after stealing Game 1 on the road against the Southeast Division champions.
Sure, New York was dominated early, blew a two-goal lead and was unusually vulnerable defending the power play, but the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed made the plays at both ends when the game was on the line against the second-seeded Capitals.
“I thought we were a nervous club,” coach John Tortorella, who took over a struggling team after Tom Renney was fired on Feb. 23. “But we rebounded really well in the second period. We found a way to get our legs underneath us and just play a simple game. Big plays at big times.”
Scott Gomez had a goal and two assists, Nik Antropov and Naslund each had a goal and an assist for the Rangers. Antropov and Naslund scored power-play goals on back-toback shots to give New York a 3-1 lead in the second period, a pleasant developmentforateamwhosepower play ranked 29th in the league. New York scored more than one manadvantage goal only once in its final 12 regular season games.
Devils 4, Hurricanes 1
Brent Sutter and the New Jersey Devils have been saying for the past week that their late-season swoon wasn’t going to be another prelude to an early exit from the playoffs.
If the first game of the post-season was an indication, the Devils will hang around for a while this spring.
Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner each had a goal and an assist and the Devils dominated from start to finish with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of their best-of-seven firstround playoffs series Wednesday night.
“It’s Step 1,” Parise said. “It’s going to be a long series. You’ve got the start somewhere and the effort was there from everybody. It was a good way for us to start.”
Defenceman Mike Mottau scored a rare goal late in the first period, Parise and Patrik Elias tallied in the second period and Langenbrunner added one in the third for New Jersey, which won four of its final five games after a season-high six-game losing streak.
Brodeur, who set the regular-season record for NHL career wins last month, was closing in on his 23rd career playoff shutout when Ray Whitney scored on a rebound. He finished with 18 saves in winning for the 96th time in the post-season.
Canucks 2, Blues 1
It wasn’t what you would call a textbook start to what they hope will be a long Stanley Cup run, but the Vancouver Canucks got the result they wanted Wednesday night.
The Canucks looked nervous at times and were guilty of taking a series of undisciplined penalties. But none of that seemed to matter after a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in their best-of-seven series opener before a noisy, towel-waving crowd at General Motors Place. Game 2 goes Friday night. Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo scored for the Canucks, who were whistled for seven minor penalties in the first two periods.
A power-play goal by Brad Boyes late in the second made things close, but the Canucks played a terrific third period to earn the win and grab the early momentum in the series.
They were helped considerably by another strong performance from goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 24 of 25 shots.