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 Thursday night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
“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 certainly 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 defenceman 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.”
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 centre John Madden said. “The chances are slim you are going to win the game. But we battled back and almost pulled one off.”
New Jersey played without captain Patrik Elias, who was sidelined with the effects of a lingering cold.
Game 2 is Saturday at New Jersey.
Coming off an impressive first-round win over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Senators came out flying in the first period and seemed intent on embarrassing Brodeur, who maybe could have stopped one of the first four goals.
“It was a like a snowball for them,” said Brodeur, who made 21 saves. “They just kept on touching everything and putting it in the net.”
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 defenceman Brian Rafalski and scored a short-handed goal. Less than two 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.
“You’d love to make these saves,” Brodeur said. “Some nights you do make these saves and it makes a big difference. When you don’t, you pay a price for it.”
The Devils didn’t help Brodeur much. Corvo scored after the Devils failed to clear the puck out of their zone on the power play. McAmmond got the gift from Rafalski, and Heatley scored with the Devils down 4-0 and pressing.
Less than a minute after Heatley scored, Zajac beat Emery in close off a nice setup by Jamie Langenbrunner to get the Devils on the board.
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 came close to tying the game, but it was not to be.
“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 restored the Senators’ two-goal lead 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.”
Notes: D Tom Preissing originally got credit for the Senators’ first goal. Replays showed Spezza tipped in the shot. … The crowd of 15,512 was about 3,500 shy of a sellout. … The only other time Brodeur has given up four goals in a period in the playoffs was on April 28, 2001, in the third period of a 6-5 overtime win over Toronto.