Senators 5, Devils 4

Friday, April 27th 2007, 7:38 am
By: News On 6

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ All the Ottawa Senators needed to beat the New Jersey Devils was a stunning offensive display in the opening 17 minutes of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

The final 43 minutes, however, gave the Devils some hope for the rest of the best-of-seven series.

Jason Spezza scored 90 seconds into Game 1, and the Senators took a 4-0 first-period lead before holding on for a 5-4 victory Thursday night.

``We weren't as sharp after we got the lead,'' said Senators defenseman Wade Redden, whose third-period power-play goal gave the Senators a two-goal cushion until the closing minute. ``The start of the game, we really controlled the play. We were moving it crisp and we had guys in forechecking. I guess it's human nature to sit back a bit.''

Coming off an impressive first-round win over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Senators looked like the Edmonton Oilers in the golden age of Gretzky and Messier in the opening period. They scored on tips, turnovers and steals in an outburst that had many wondering whether Devils goalie Martin Brodeur would survive the first period.

``I think they were kind of watching us play,'' said defenseman Joe Corvo, who scored in the opening spurt with Spezza, Dean McAmmond and Dany Heatley. ``We were doing all the right things and we were all over them. We were scoring on basically every shot.''

After the fourth goal, the Senators' magic wore off.

Travis Zajac scored a minute after Heatley to get the Devils on the scoreboard. Brian Gionta and Andy Greene scored in the opening 4:57 of the second period to close the gap to a goal.

The clang of a goal post on Scott Gomez's shot late in the second period kept the game from being tied.

``We made it harder than it should have been,'' Senators goalie Ray Emery said after making 26 saves to help Ottawa win its fourth straight playoff game. ``You know that team will rebound and they will not go down without a fight.''

The Devils got a goal from Zach Parise with 30 seconds to play to draw within one.

``I know we didn't win, but I am sure they are thinking about it,'' Brodeur said. ``After a bad start, we made this into a pretty good hockey game.''

In the only other playoff game on Thursday, San Jose beat Detroit 2-0.

The Devils expect to have left wing Patrik Elias in the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday. He missed the opener because of the lingering effects of a weeklong cold.

``It's tough to spot a team like that a four-goal lead,'' Devils center John Madden said. ``The chances are slim you are going to win the game. But we battled back and almost pulled one off.''

The opening minutes were a nightmare for the Devils and Brodeur, who made 21 saves.

Spezza scored on a tip-in 1:30 into the game and Corvo ripped a power-play goal off Brodeur's glove at 6:49.

Seconds after Gionta was stopped in close on a power play, McAmmond stole the puck from Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski and scored a short-handed goal. Less than 2 minutes later, Heatley broke into the New Jersey zone on a 2-on-1 break and fired a shot into the top of the net.

``It was a like a snowball for them,'' Brodeur said. ``They just kept on touching everything and putting it in the net.''

Gionta got the crowd back into the game early in the second period with a goal from the top of the left circle after an inept power play ended, and then Greene had them roaring with a goal from the left point at 4:59, cutting the lead to 4-3.

Gomez nearly tied it.

``I thought I missed the net,'' Gomez said. ``Someone said it either hit him in the head or the post, I wasn't sure.''

Redden made it 5-3 in the opening minute of the third period.

``That goal took the wind out of us a little bit,'' Devils forward Jay Pandolfo said. ``But we battled all the way to the end. We have to forget about it and get ready for Game 2 on Saturday.''

Sharks 2, Red Wings 0

Matt Carle and Mike Grier scored in a 24-second span midway through the first period and Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves for visiting San Jose in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal.

Nabokov's shutout was his first this postseason and the fifth of his career in the playoffs. He was tied for second in the NHL with seven during the regular season.

Dominik Hasek had to make just 17 saves because the Sharks played very conservatively after taking the two-goal lead.

The Sharks won a league-high and franchise-record 26 games on the road this season. They won twice in Nashville, including the series-winning victory in Game 5 last week.