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Penguins, Rangers win playoff openers

by Brian Compton and John Kreiser

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 26 shots he faced for his first postseason shutout as Pittsburgh Penguins blanked the Ottawa Senators, 4-0 in the series opener at Mellon Arena.
WATCH highlights from the Pens' Game 1 win
Pens blank Sens in Game 1 | Video

Ottawa coach Bryan Murray undoubtedly focused on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as the players capable of doing the most damage in his team’s opening-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh. Now the Senators have to worry about Gary Roberts, too.
The 22-year-pro scored twice on Wednesday night as the Pens beat the Senators 4-0 in the series opener at Mellon Arena. Game 2 is slated for Friday night in the Steel City.
It was just the start the Penguins were looking for after being ousted by Ottawa in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for his first postseason shutout, but it was Roberts — who has scored 14 of his 32 career playoff goals against Ottawa — who stole the show.
His revival couldn’t have come at a better time. Pittsburgh, which has now won nine straight home games, was hoping to get off to a fast start in this series after failing to recover from a 6-3 loss to the Sens in Game 1 of their series last year.
''It's a good feeling for us, for sure,'' Roberts said. ''Last year, I think we were in shock after Game 1 in Ottawa — they came out so hard and battled us real hard. But that feeling — I don't think it's left in this dressing room.''
Roberts needed just 68 seconds to bring the capacity crowd to its feet. With the teams at even strength, Roberts, who played on Sunday for the first time since Dec. 29 due to a broken leg, took a pass from Georges Laraque and backhanded it past Martin Gerber for his first goal since Dec. 23.

“We like to keep the puck down behind their net,” Roberts said. “That’s going to have to continue for us. We’ve got big, strong forwards and guys that can do that job. Hopefully we’ll have that success in Game 2.”
Petr Sykora gave the Pens a two-goal lead with 7:32 remaining in the first period. The veteran forward completed a 2-on-1 by one-timing Malkin’s feed past Gerber.
Fleury kept the Senators off the scoreboard with two huge saves on Cory Stillman during an Ottawa two-man advantage that lasted close to a minute during in the second period.
“The last 15 games, he’s been the best goalie in the National Hockey League,” Therrien said of Fleury. “I’m not surprised. He gave us a chance to win.”
''Those 5-on-3s have to be automatic,'' Sens forward Jason Spezza said. ''They kill you if don't score on them. We did a good job to get them, we generated a lot offensively ... we got our chances.''
Malkin put the game out of reach when he scored with 6:02 to play in the third. Roberts added the exclamation point when he added a power-play goal with 1:35 left.   
“He does it year after year,” Crosby gushed as he spoke about Roberts, who tortured the Senators in the playoffs during his years with Toronto. “I don’t think we’re surprised. I think it’s great to see, but we’re not surprised. That’s the type of player he is, type of person he is. He’s a warrior. He’s been doing it for a long time. When you’ve got a guy leading like that, it’s just up to us to follow.”
Roberts believes the best is yet to come for the relatively young Pens, who won their first division title in 10 years despite substantial injuries to key players such as Crosby and Fleury.
“I was just trying to get to the net, and I was fortunate for the puck to go in,” Roberts said. “For the most part, this team’s really grown together in the last three months. We played without Sid for a long time and had some other key injuries. It’s just fun for me to be part of it again.”
“He’s a warrior,” Therrien said of Roberts. “He’s the type of guy that makes a name for himself to be a warrior in the playoffs. He only played one game before tonight in the last three months. The way that he played tonight … it’s got to be good for his confidence. I’m glad the way he was able to perform.”
Without captain Daniel Alfredsson — who is likely out for the entire series with knee, back and neck injuries — the Sens were unable to generate much on the power play. Ottawa went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
“We talk about it all the time — just put pucks to the net,” Murray said. “We missed the net on a couple of occasions. It’s not only getting a shot on goal; it’s getting a scoring chance in that kind of scenario.”
Knowing that Murray and the Senators will make adjustments before Friday’s Game 2, Crosby and the Pens know they must once again bring their ‘A’ games if they plan on going to Scotiabank Place with a 2-0 series lead.
“This is a good hockey team we’re playing,” Crosby said of the Sens. “We started off the way we wanted to, but we have to have a short memory in the playoffs and regroup and adjust. That’s what you have to do in the playoffs. We did win, but there’s things that are going to change and you have to adapt as you move on.”

Ex-Devil Gomez helps Rangers beat New Jersey | Video

Scott Gomez had three assists against his former mates as the New York Rangers opened the postseason by continuing their domination of the New Jersey Devils, 4-1. 

The New York Rangers dominated the New Jersey Devils all season long. The opener of their playoff series was no different.
As they did in winning the first seven of their eight regular-season games, the Rangers made the big plays when it counted — and the Devils made the mistakes. This time, Rangers rookie Ryan Callahan stepped up with a tie-breaking shorthanded goal 7:23 into the third period and the Rangers went on to a 4-1 victory over the Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
With a New Jersey power play almost over, Callahan took a pass from Scott Gomez and fired a shot from the right wing that Martin Brodeur turned aside. Brodeur followed the puck across the crease but didn’t glove it — a move that proved to be a big mistake when Callahan came around from behind the net to jam the puck past a startled Brodeur, who hadn’t seen him, for a shorthanded goal.

''I didn't know he was around,” Brodeur said. “You have to freeze that. It's not the way I play. I like to keep the play moving. I made a mistake, and I cost us.''
Said Callahan: “We had a couple of chances while we were shorthanded. Me and Gomer went down, and he made a good play. I snuck around and got one.”
Another New Jersey mistake led to Sean Avery’s insurance goal with 2:43 remaining. After a turnover, Gomez carried the puck down the left wing all the way to the goal line, drawing a defenseman with him and pulling Brodeur to his side. Gomez was able to roll a pass off New Jersey forward Sergei Brylin’s skate back into the slot, where Avery burst past his check and slammed the puck into a wide-open net.
Nigel Dawes’ empty-netter with 4.5 seconds left capped the win for the Rangers, who went 7-0-1 against New Jersey in the regular season and won a series opener for only the second time in their last 13 tries.

“It’s nice to get a win in the first game. It gives us some confidence,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 26 saves. “Even though it was a 4-1 win, it was tight.”
The series resumes Friday night at New Jersey before moving across the Hudson River for Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden — and despite his team’s continued domination of the Devils, Rangers coach Tom Renney knows the series is far from over.
“It’s just one,” he said. “It’s a race to four, and we have one. We likely have to be better (Friday night).”
Gomez, playing despite sore ribs, didn’t express any particular pleasure at beating his former team.
''It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you play,'' he said. ''It could have been any team. As you get older, the years go by faster. I've got a lot of friends over there, but the way you're raised over there, it doesn't matter who's in the way. There were no extra emotions.”
After a nervous, scoreless first period in which the Rangers plinked a post and the Devils hit a crossbar, Gomez helped to set up the game’s first goal carried into the Devils’ zone and fed Brendan Shanahan. With Gomez setting a screen, Brodeur appeared not to see Shanahan’s wrist shot from the right circle. The goal came at 1:45, two seconds after a New York power play ended.
New Jersey got rolling as the period continued and tied the game on Paul Martin’s power-play goal at 14:14. After nearly a minute of intense pressure by the Devils, Martin grabbed a pass from Patrik Elias in the right circle, hesitated, then whipped a wrist shot past Lundqvist to tie the game.
Lundqvist kept the game tied later in the period by foiling Zach Parise on a deflection and going right to left to rob Elias, who was alone just 10 feet from the net. Brodeur’s best save came with 35 seconds left in the period, when he made a lunging glove stop on Shanahan’s wrister.
Both teams had chances in the third period before Callahan’s goal, and the Devils had several more opportunities to tie the game before Avery gave the Rangers a two-goal margin. Lundqvist, who had all seven wins against the Devils during the regular season, twice denied Parise with 6:15 left in regulation.
“We were good, but not good enough to win tonight,” Brodeur said.

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.

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