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
"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."
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.
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
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
"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."<
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.