The Ottawa Senators got to Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils early and often, and then avoided what could have been an embarrassing letdown.
Jason Spezza scored 90 seconds into the game, and the Senators jumped to a 4-0 first-period lead before holding on for a 5-4 victory last night in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series in East Rutherford, N.J.
"We made it harder than it should have been," Senators goaltender 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 put a scare into Ottawa, drawing within 4-3 early in the second period. A shot off the goal post by Scott Gomez nearly tied the game later in the second.
"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."
Spezza, Joe Corvo, Dean McAmmond, and Dany Heatley all scored in the opening 16:39 to give Ottawa the big cushion.
"I think they were kind of watching us play," Corvo said. "We were doing all the right things and we were all over them. We were scoring on basically every shot."
Travis Zajac, Brian Gionta, and Andy Greene cut the Ottawa lead to 4-3 early in the second period. Zach Parise made it 5-4 with 30 seconds left.
"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 it off."
New Jersey played without captain Patrik Elias, who was sidelined with the effects of a lingering cold.
Sharks 2, Red Wings 0 -- Matt Carle and Mike Grier scored midway through the first period and Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves to lead San Jose past host Detroit in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
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 conservatively after taking the two-goal lead.
Carle's goal at 9:45 of the first period was set up by a fantastic series of passes around the perimeter, ending with Joe Thornton's cross-crease pass from the corner.
Grier was in the right place when the puck trickled into the slot, and he wheeled around and beat Hasek with a slap shot at 10:09.
The Sharks seemed right at home in Detroit, perhaps because they won a league-high and franchise-record 26 games on the road this season.