PITTSBURGH – Almost seemed as if the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing last season’s conference finals against the rival Flyers all over again.

The Penguins got a goal and an assist each from stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and shut down the frustrated Philadelphia Flyers’ fleet of scorers for a 4-1 victory Wednesday night in the opening game of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

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 as the Penguins won their fourth consecutive conference playoff series opener.

Eleven months later, the Penguins controlled the Flyers much like they did in winning the conference finals in five games last season, when they scored at least four goals in each victory and finished it off with a 6-0 rout in Game 5. Dating to Game 4 of those finals, the Penguins had scored 12 consecutive playoff goals against the Flyers until Simon Gagne scored late in the third period with Pittsburgh leading 4-0.

The Flyers didn’t like it, either, ending the game with three players in the penalty box as they tried to send a message through some physical play that Game 2 on Friday night won’t be so easy.

This time, the Penguins put the pressure on early, built a multiple-goal lead while not letting Philadelphia sustain any offensive momentum and leaned on Fleury to make the big saves when the Flyers did make a push.

They also waited for Flyers mistakes, and there were plenty of them – the first of which was Philadelphia not holding a third-period lead Sunday at home against the Rangers. New York’s 4-3 victory meant the Flyers opened the series in Pittsburgh rather than on their home ice, and it made a difference.

Devils 4, Hurricanes 1

NEWARK, N.J. – Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner each had a goal and an assist and New Jersey Devils showed they are over their late-season swoon with a dominating 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of their first-round playoffs series Wednesday night.

Defenseman Mike Mottau scored a rare goal late in the first period, Parise and Patrik Elias tallied in the second period and Langenbrunner added one in the third as New Jersey seemed to answer questions that surrounded it after a late six-game losing streak.

Martin 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. Brodeur finished with 18 saves in winning for the 96th time in the postseason.

Coach Brent Sutter felt the team was OK after winning four of its final five, and the showing against the Hurricanes was more evidence of that.

The playoff appearance was the first for Carolina since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and the Hurricanes played as if they did not want to stay around long. Cam Ward kept them in the game, making 34 saves.

Rangers 4, Capitals 3

WASHINGTON – With the score tied in the third period, the New York Rangers did what they do best – kill off a power play.

Then Markus Naslund popped out of the penalty box and set up the winning goal.

Naslund fed Brandon Dubinsky, who made a move that left Jeff Schultz sprawled on the ice. Dubinsky then beat goalie Jose Theodore inside the near post with 8:17 remaining, lifting the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series.

Scott Gomez had a goal and two assists, Nik Antropov and Naslund each had a goal and an assist, and Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves to help the seventh-seeded Rangers take the early series momentum against the second-seeded Capitals.

Tomas Fleischmann, Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Semin scored the goals, and Ovechkin had a pair of assists for the Capitals, who will try to pull even when they host Game 2 on Saturday.

Jose Theodore made 17 saves for Washington.

The Rangers, the NHL’s best penalty killers during the regular season, uncharacteristically allowed two power-play goals – the first time in 30 games they’ve allowed more than one – but they shut the Capitals down when it mattered. Naslund was whistled for infractions twice in the game’s final 12 minutes – the second time for slashing Ovechkin – but Washington’s No. 2-ranked power play came up empty both times.


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