Boxed in and bumped around all game, Alex Ovechkin eventually figured out a way to make his NHL playoff debut a memorable one.
Held without a shot until late in the third period, the league's leading scorer stole the puck and netted the tiebreaking goal with 4 1/2 minutes remaining, leading the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series Friday night in Washington.
The Flyers led 4-2 heading into the final period, thanks to two goals apiece by Danny Briere and Vaclav Prospal. But Ovechkin helped set up the first of two goals by defenseman Mike Green that lifted Washington into a tie.
And then Ovechkin, who set a NHL record for goals by a left winger this season with 65, put the finishing touch on the Capitals' first playoff game since 2003.
The 22-year-old Russian known as Alex the Great took the puck away from defenseman Lasse Kukkonen and slid it past goalie Martin Biron. As the red-clad crowd's "M-V-P!" chants rang through the arena, Ovechkin raced over and jumped into the glass to celebrate, then did a high-step along the boards before skating all the way down to the other end to exchange high-fives with his team's goalie, Cristobal Huet.
Game 2 is Sunday at Washington, where the hosts have won seven consecutive games.
N.Y. Rangers 2, New Jersey 1: Henrik Lundqvist and another flukey goal have the Rangers halfway to the second round and the Devils wondering what they have to do to beat their longtime rival.
Jaromir Jagr and Sean Avery scored 23 seconds apart early in the third period and Lundqvist made 26 saves in beating the Devils yet again in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The win was the Rangers' ninth in 10 games against New Jersey this season, and it gives New York a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that will shift across the river for Game 3 on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Devils face a long road back. The Rangers have never lost a best-of-seven series in which they have led 2-0.
New Jersey has lost four of the five series in which it fell behind 2-0. Its only comeback was in 1994 in the Eastern Conference semifinals after losing the first two games at home to Boston.
Game 2 was similar to almost every other game between the teams this season. It was close until the third period, then the Rangers took over, taking 17 shots.
Pittsburgh 5, Ottawa 3: Ryan Malone scored the Penguins' third power-play goal of the game with only 1:02 remaining and Pittsburgh squandered a three-goal lead against the Senators, then rallied for a victory in Pittsburgh.
Petr Sykora scored two of the three goals set up by Evgeni Malkin as the Penguins withstood what might have been a frantic, series-changing rally by Ottawa.
Malone added an empty-net goal with 6.5 seconds remaining -- the Penguins' 54th shot, easily their most in regulation in their playoff history. The previous record was 49 shots.
Sergei Gonchar also scored and Sidney Crosby, held scoreless as Pittsburgh won 4-0 in Game 1, had four assists. The series now shifts to Ottawa for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday.Etc.
• The Edmonton Oilers signed defenseman Tom Gilbert to a six-year, $24 million contract Friday. The 25-year-old Gilbert, a former University of Wisconsin player from Bloomington, was second among rookie defensemen with 33 points (13 goals and 20 assists) and led all NHL freshmen with 159 blocked shots. Gilbert will play for the United States next month in the world championships.
• Jacques Martin is no longer the Florida Panthers' coach. His status as general manager is still up in the air. Martin has filled both roles since the 2006-07 season. He will leave the bench after three years and has been offered the chance to concentrate on his front office duties, the team announced Friday. Martin's decision is expected next week.