Elias, Devils throttle Rangers

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The start of the Stanley Cup playoffs did nothing to slow down the New Jersey Devils or pick up the New York Rangers.

Patrik Elias scored two of New Jersey’s team-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.

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, were hurt by a slew of penalties in the second and third.

The Rangers took 13 penalties in all.

Avalanche 5, Stars 2

DALLAS – Maybe Dallas thought it was going to be that easy. A decided favorite going into their first-round series against Colorado, the Stars already had a two-goal lead.

Except there were more than two periods left in what turned into a 5-2 victory by the seventh-seeded Avalanche.

Colorado cut the deficit in half before the end of the first period, then scored three times in the second period. Rookie winger Wojtek Wolski tied the game at 2 before Rob Blake and John-Michael Liles scored on power-play goals only 2:04 apart.

Joe Sakic, the Avs captain and leading scorer, had two assists to start his 12th playoff appearance. Goalie Jose Theodore stopped 16 shots in only his sixth game for Colorado.

Game 2 is Monday night in Dallas.

The Avalanche certainly looked like a playoff-seasoned team, one starting its 25th playoff series since moving to Denver in 1995 – more than any other team. Not the squad that lost 10 of its last 16 regular season games for its lowest playoff seeding since 1987 while still in Quebec.

For the Stars, it was eerily similar to their last playoff series two years ago. Colorado won that first-round series in five games and twice scored five times against Dallas goalie Marty Turco.

This is the fourth time in seven years the two teams have meet in the playoffs. Dallas won a pair of incredible seven-game Western Conference finals in 1999 and 2000 to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

Dallas went up 2-0 when Jason Arnott slid by the net and made a backhand pass to Bill Guerin, who slammed the puck behind Theodore with 4:58 left in the first period.

That came only two minutes after a one-timer by Brenden Morrow on Dallas’ third shot of the game. Stu Barnes made a pass from behind the net to Morrow at the edge of the right circle.

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Habs 6, Hurricanes 1

RALEIGH, N.C. – So much for those earlier results. The Montreal Canadiens had no trouble this time with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cristobal Huet made 43 saves, 12 players recorded points and the Canadiens made up for four lopsided losses to Carolina during the regular season with a 6-1 victory in the opener of the Eastern Conference series.

Alex Kovalev had two goals and Francis Bouillon, Radek Bonk, Chris Higgins and Sheldon Souray each added one for Montreal, which ended the regular season with four losses in its past six games.

The Hurricanes earned the second seed in the conference with the best year in franchise history, a run that included a 4-0 record against Montreal. None were really close, with the combined margin of the final three 20-6.

Sabres 3, Flyers 2

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Daniel Briere tipped in Jochen Hecht’s centering pass 7:31 into the second overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of Eastern Conference playoff series.

Tim Connolly and Jay McKee also scored for the Sabres, who won after squandering a 2-0 lead in the postseason opener.

Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne forced overtime with a power-play goal with 1:51 left in regulation. Robert Esche was strong in stopping 55 shots, and Mike Knuble had a goal and assist for the Flyers.

With a delayed penalty being called against the Flyers, Hecht got to a loose puck in the left circle of the Philadelphia zone. Circling along the left boards, he sneaked a pass into the middle, where the wide-open Briere stuck his stick out and directed the puck past a helpless Esche.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in Buffalo.

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