Thomas Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres sure looked like the cream of the crop last night.
Vanek scored twice, sparking a three-goal second period, and Ryan Miller stopped 32 shots in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series opener in Buffalo. Jason Pominville and Ales Kotalik also scored for a Sabres team that played much better after struggling to eliminate the Islanders in five games in the first round.
The Sabres were particularly motivated after Rangers coach Tom Renney said this week that top-seeded Buffalo wasn't the NHL's "cream of the crop" team.
"I think we showed everybody we were ready," Kotalik said. "A lot of things were said before the game, and we made sure we showed to respond not in the paper but on the ice."
Marcel Hossa and Brendan Shanahan scored third-period goals for the Rangers, who lost their first game this postseason after sweeping Southeast Division champion Atlanta. The Rangers went 1 for 5 in power-play chances, but failed to score during a two-minute, two-man advantage early in the third.
The Sabres never allowed the Rangers to within a goal in the third, and Drew Stafford sealed the win with an empty-netter.
New York didn't look rusty in its first game in a week, but the Rangers struggled to keep up with the Sabres' depth and speed. That was apparent when the Sabres went up, 3-0, scoring three times on four shots during a 4:05 span late in the second period.
"Mentally, we weren't as sharp as we needed to be, and not as sharp as we'll be next game," Shanahan said. "I don't know if they outplayed us, but they outperformed us."
The Rangers allowed a total of six goals in the first round against the Thrashers.
Vanek opened the scoring 14 minutes into the frame with a power-play goal. Parked in front and a step ahead of defender Daniel Girardi, Vanek was in perfect position to deflect in Dmitri Kalinin's shot from inside the blue line.
Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game by stopping the first 23 shots he faced, including 15 in the opening period.
Ducks 5, Canucks 1 -- Andy McDonald had his first career playoff hat trick and assisted on another goal as host Anaheim opened its first playoff series against Vancouver with a victory.
After Jeff Cowan gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 7:07 of the first period, the Ducks responded by scoring three times -- twice by McDonald -- on their first nine shots against goalie Roberto Luongo.
Teemu Selanne had a goal and assist during the outburst, and Chris Kunitz assisted on all three goals.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere finished with 26 saves for the Ducks.
Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a three-goal pad midway through the final period, and McDonald capped the scoring on a shot from just left of the crease when the Ducks had a two-man advantage with 52 seconds remaining.
Luongo faced 31 shots as the Ducks kept the pressure on by crowding in front of the Vancouver goal. He was replaced by Dany Sabourin after Getzlaf's goal, and Sabourin gave up