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Theodore takes blame for Caps' loss to Rangers

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WASHINGTON (AP) -It took all of one playoff game for Washington coach Bruce Boudreau to wonder aloud about switching goalies, going from a past NHL MVP to a rookie.

"There's a chance anything could happen," Boudreau said. "When you lose, you make changes."

This much was clear to everyone after the Rangers beat the Capitals 4-3 in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference series Wednesday night: New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist outplayed Washington's Jose Theodore.

And Theodore was the first to acknowledge that.

"I'm not happy with my game," the 2002 league MVP said. "Just wasn't good enough."

His coach's take?

"He's right," Boudreau said.

Did Boudreau consider making a change after Theodore allowed three goals in the second period?

"You never want to look like you're panicking," last season's NHL coach of the year said, "and that's what that would have looked like."

So Simeon Varlamov, he of six career NHL appearances, stayed on the bench, and Theodore stayed in - and allowed Brandon Dubinsky to score the winning goal with 8:17 remaining. Dubinsky took a pass from Markus Naslund, made a move that left defenseman Jeff Schultz sprawled on the ice and sent a shot over Theodore's glove.

While Theodore managed to stop only 17 of 21 shots, Lundqvist made 32 saves - including holding Alex Ovechkin without a goal. The league's leading goal-scorer each of the last two seasons took 13 shots.

"Goaltending was a key part tonight," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

Washington will try to even the series at home Saturday in Game 2.

"Right now we feel pretty good about how we played," Lundqvist said. "Confidence is huge in the playoffs."

Scott Gomez, Nik Antropov and Naslund scored as New York built a 3-1 lead, and Sean Avery made his presence felt from start to finish, helping the seventh-seeded Rangers grab momentum against the second-seeded Capitals.

Ovechkin had two assists, and Tomas Fleischmann, Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Semin scored for Washington.

Avery played his agitator role exactly as expected, and while he wasn't officially credited with a goal or an assist, he deserves some credit for New York's first tally.

As Gomez skated up the left wing, Washington's Mike Green was waiting near the blue line, but Avery - with precisely the right mix of subtlety and effectiveness - made enough contact with the defenseman to send him tumbling to the ice. That cleared Gomez's path to the net, and he shot past Theodore to tie it at 1 not quite 8 minutes into the second period.

Afterward, Green said Avery tripped him, and Boudreau was surprised there wasn't a penalty called on the play.

Avery also sent Green over the boards in the third period, and they jawed at each other.

Asked if he felt Avery singled him out, Green said: "Yeah, sure. I felt like that, too, but I liked it. It makes me play stronger."

Avery used his left hand to pull Washington defenseman John Erskine down by the face early, and put his stick against Theodore's chest as they exchanged words late.

At the start, Washington dominated the run of play, taking nine of the game's first 10 shots. The score after the first period, though, was 0-0.

"I thought we were a nervous club. 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," Tortorella said. "Big plays at big times."

At Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each had a goal and an assist, and the Penguins shut down frustrated Philadelphia's fleet of scorers.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre 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.

Tyler Kennedy and Mark Eaton also scored for the Penguins, who beat the Flyers in five games last year in the Eastern Conference finals. Simon Gagne scored late in the third period for Philadelphia.

Game 2 is Friday night in Pittsburgh.

At Newark, N.J., Martin Brodeur made 18 saves, and Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner each had a goal and an assist for the Devils.

Defenseman Mike Mottau scored in the first period, Parise and Patrik Elias added goals in the second, and Langenbrunner scored in the third.

Brodeur, who set the regular-season record for NHL career wins last month, came within 11 minutes of tying Patrick Roy's record for career playoff shutouts at 23 before Ray Whitney scored on a rebound.

Game 2 is Friday night in New Jersey.

At Vancouver, British Columbia, Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist, and Roberto Luongo made 25 saves for the Canucks.

Sami Salo added a power-play goal for Vancouver, 14-1-1 at home since the start of February. Brad Boyes had a power-play goal for St. Louis.

Game 2 is Friday night in Vancouver.

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