NEW YORK – It took just over a minute for Patrik Elias and the New Jersey Devils to wreck the long-awaited playoff party at Madison Square Garden.
Elias set up Jamie Langenbrunner 68 seconds after the opening faceoff and then scored his third goal of the series 8 minutes later in the Devils’ 3-0 victory over surprise starter Jaromir Jagr and the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Martin Brodeur stopped 25 shots for his 21st career postseason shutout, two off the NHL mark held by Patrick Roy, as the Devils won their 14th straight game.
New Jersey took advantage of New York’s deficient special teams in winning the opening two games of the series, and then built a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup by scoring three goals at even strength.
Not even the unexpected return of Jagr, who is battling a left shoulder injury, could spark the Rangers in their first home playoff game in nine years. Petr Sykora came the closest to scoring but he hit the post – for the second straight game – when facing an open net in the second period.
Jagr sat out Game 2 after he was hurt late in the opening loss at New Jersey and said it would take a miracle for him to be ready to play Wednesday. Mission accomplished, but that was nothing compared to what the Rangers will need to rally in this series.
Only two NHL teams have come back to win after trailing 0-3, and the Devils have never lost a series they led as much as 2-0.
Flyers 4, Sabres 2
PHILADELPHIA – Peter Forsberg showed why he’s considered one of the best hockey players in the world.
Embarrassed after two road losses, Forsberg scored two goals and Robert Esche made 26 saves to give the Philadelphia Flyers some home-ice tonic in a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
The Sabres still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 on Friday night, also in Philadelphia.
The Flyers were humiliated in their six-goal loss on Monday night, and they were left looking for an edge as coaches Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff got into a verbal spat.
Hurricanes 2, Habs 1
MONTREAL – Eric Staal scored a power-play goal 3:38 into overtime to give Carolina a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night as the Hurricanes avoided falling into an 0-3 hole in their first-round playoff series.
Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour tied the game 11:27 into the third period with his third goal in two games.
Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec was sent off for hooking 2:35 into overtime and Staal won it with a drive from the point that went through traffic and past goalie Cristobal Huet.
Rookie Cam Ward stopped 27 shots in his first career playoff start as the second-seeded Hurricanes recovered from two home losses to draw within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Friday night in Montreal. The Hurricanes have never come back to win a playoff series after losing the first two games.
Canadiens captain Saku Koivu left early in the second period, bleeding from a cut in the area of his left eye after he was clipped by Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams’ stick while cutting past Carolina’s net.
Koivu, who wears a visor, was taken to a hospital with a facial injury and did not return. No penalty was called on the play.
Huet made 34 saves after stopping a total of 83 shots in the first two games.
0Richard Zednik scored his second of the series on a power play 9:07 into the second.
Brind’Amour, who scored twice in Game 2, poked a loose puck past Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray and steered a shot along the ice and between Huet’s pads to tie it at 1.
Carolina had a 4-minute power-play opportunity late in the third when Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek was given a double minor for high-sticking at 15:26 after he clipped Cory Stillman.
Ward made his postseason debut when he replaced Martin Gerber midway through Game 2.