The result was a rout.
Patrik Elias scored two of New Jersey's playoff-record five power-play goals and the Devils earned their 12th straight victory by beating the Rangers 6-1 Saturday in the opener of the Eastern Conference series.
"We were warned before the game that they are going to keep calling the penalties the way they did in the regular season," Elias said. "This was more emotional today because we know what's on the line."
The Devils turned the emotions into goals, while the Rangers continued to march to the penalty box and took themselves right out of the game.
New York survived the first period by allowing just one man-advantage goal in four opportunities, but the discipline and penalty killing got progressively worse.
The calls varied from hooking, to elbowing to cross-checking and roughing. Marek Malik took a swipe at an opponent's face right in front of an official.
"We lost our composure, we had some selfish hockey, some undisciplined play, and we had guys that chose to think of themselves ahead of their teammates," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "One thing we know for sure is we're not going to beat the New Jersey Devils from the penalty box."
The Rangers were called for 16 penalties that totaled 43 minutes and produced 13 power plays for New Jersey. Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored with a man advantage.
New York, which lost its final five games of the regular season to allow the Devils to win the Atlantic Division on the last day, tied it 1-1 on rookie Petr Prucha's first-period, power-play goal. But the Rangers, playing their first postseason game since 1997, just couldn't stay out of the box.
Elias gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead during New York's first infraction, and Gomez and defenseman Ken Klee beat Rangers rookie goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the second. Rafalski, Langenbrunner and Elias made it a blowout in the third.
"It was one of those crazy games where sometimes it happens," Gomez said. "We hope the power play goes that way the whole playoffs but that's impossible."
The final New Jersey goal, scored with 4:26 remaining, might prove to be the most costly to New York.
Right after Elias scored, Rangers leading scorer Jaromir Jagr was helped to the dressing room with an injury to his left elbow or shoulder. He took a swipe at Gomez, but didn't connect.
He will be evaluated by doctors on Sunday, and his status for Game 2 on Monday is unclear.
"It doesn't matter. We have to get ready for the next game whether I play or not," said Jagr, who had 123 points this season.
Klee's goal that made it 3-1 with 2:50 left in the second period missed being a man-advantage tally by two seconds. Rafalski stretched the lead to three 53 seconds into the third period, 21 seconds after Jagr was sent off for hooking. Langenbrunner netted the Devils' fifth goal at 8:45.
Not only did the penalties give the Devils opportunities to score, but they also kept Jagr planted on the Rangers' bench for long stretches of time. Devils forward Jay Pandolfo didn't have to worry about shadowing the league's second-leading scorer when the Czech star was safely off ice.
Martin Brodeur made 29 saves in his 134th consecutive postseason start for the Devils. He will break Patrick Roy's league record of 136 if he starts the next three games of this series.
By then he might also accomplish one goal that has eluded him in his brilliant career that includes three Stanley Cup titles and two Vezina Trophies. Brodeur and the Devils have never beaten the Rangers in the playoffs, losing the first three series.
"We're going to face a different club," Gomez said. "They got a lot of young guys who got their first taste of it. We've got to be ready for that on Monday night."
The Devils made up a 19-point deficit and passed both the Rangers and Flyers in the Atlantic Division on the strength of their 11-game winning streak - the longest to end a season in NHL history.
Although the crowd was largely in favor of the hometown Devils, many Rangers fans also were in attendance. After Lundqvist made a nice save to keep the game tied in the first period, alternating cheers of "Hen-rik" and "Let's Go Rangers" rained down.
Those chants were all gone by the time Rafalski made it 4-1. The Devils rooters took back their building and serenaded Lundqvist - the Olympic gold-medal winning goalie for Sweden - with taunts of "Mar-ty's Better."
"I won't say I was struggling but I was having a hard time to see the puck," Lundqvist said. "A lot of pucks that went in I never saw. I don't know why."
Notes: New Jersey D Colin White didn't play after the 17-minute mark of the first period. He sustained a groin injury in the season finale and was only 50-50 to suit up for Game 1. ... Rangers C Steve Rucchin was back in the lineup after missing seven games with a broken bone in his right foot.
|PPG - Patrik Elias (1) ASST: Scott Gomez (1), Jamie Langenbrunner (1)|
1 - 0 NJD
|PPG - Petr Prucha (1) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (1), Michael Nylander (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Scott Gomez (1) ASST: Brian Gionta (1), Patrik Elias (1)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Ken Klee (1) ASST: Patrik Elias (2), Jamie Langenbrunner (2)|
3 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Brian Rafalski (1) ASST: Patrik Elias (3), Brian Gionta (2)|
4 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Jamie Langenbrunner (1) ASST: Patrik Elias (4), Brian Gionta (3)|
5 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Patrik Elias (2) ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (3), Scott Gomez (2)|
6 - 1 NJD
|Dominic Moore Holding against Cam Janssen|
|Jason Ward Elbowing against Scott Gomez|
|Brad Lukowich Hooking against Steve Rucchin|
|Colin White Boarding against Jaromir Jagr|
|Brian Gionta Slashing against Darius Kasparaitis|
|Jed Ortmeyer Interference against Jamie Langenbrunner|
|Sandis Ozolinsh Tripping against Zach Parise|
|Michal Rozsival Boarding against Jay Pandolfo|
|Brian Rafalski Holding against Marcel Hossa|
|Blair Betts Hooking against Ken Klee|
|John Madden Hooking against Jaromir Jagr|
|Marek Malik Roughing against Grant Marshall|
|Brad Lukowich Hooking against Martin Straka|
|Tom Poti Hi-sticking against John Madden|
|Zach Parise Hooking against Michael Nylander|
|Jaromir Jagr Hooking against Jay Pandolfo|
|Marcel Hossa Cross checking against Erik Rasmussen|
|Marek Malik Elbowing against Jay Pandolfo|
|Ryan Hollweg Misconduct (10 min) against Cam Janssen|
|Ryan Hollweg Fighting (maj) against Cam Janssen|
|Ryan Hollweg Roughing against Cam Janssen|
|Ryan Hollweg Instigator against Cam Janssen|
|Cam Janssen Fighting (maj) against Ryan Hollweg|
|Jason Wiemer Roughing against Martin Straka|
|Martin Straka Hooking against Brian Gionta|