EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Devils played like top seeds.
Bobby Holik scored twice against a shaky Arturs Irbe and Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists as the Devils coasted to a 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game One of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Sergei Brylin and Petr Sykora also tallied for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who had a 36-18 advantage in shots and stormed to a five-goal lead.
"There's not a lot of celebrating in our room," Devils coach Larry Robinson said. "I think everybody is concentrating and focusing on the job at hand. They know it's a long way off."
New Jersey has won just one of four playoff series as the top seed in the East, losing in the first round to Ottawa in 1998 and Pittsburgh in 1999. The Devils captured the Stanley Cup in 1995 as the fifth seed and again last year as the fourth seed.
"Nobody expects much from you because you failed the last several times the first round, so we had things to prove. Now it's a different situation because everybody knows, especially the way we finished the regular season, how good we could be," Holik said. "So instead of proving the point, you try to play up to the expectations. And it's not expectations from you guys (in the media), it's expectations from every individual in this locker room. We set our own standards and we try to play up to them."
New Jersey has won 20 of its last 22 games dating back to the regular season.
Despite being thoroughly outplayed, Carolina looked like it would escape the opening period in a scoreless tie. But defenseman Marek Malik put a clearing attempt right on the stick of Brylin, who moved from the top of the right faceoff circle into the slot and put a wrist shot over Irbe's left shoulder at 18:52.
Holik made it 2-0 just 85 seconds into the second period, surprising a motionless Irbe with a wrister from the top of the left circle.
"I thought we played well through 19 minutes," said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. "We made a mistake and cost us a goal, and giving up that second one early in the second never gave us that time to recover and get back on our horse."
Held to three goals in his previous 35 playoff games, Holik scored again at 15:20. His blast from above the right faceoff circle tipped off defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh's stick and got by Irbe, who again did not react.
Sykora made it 4-0 at 5:06 of the third period, fighting off defenseman Kevin Hatcher as he broke down the slot and getting off a wrist shot while falling that beat Irbe inside the right goalpost.
Elias tapped in a rebound of Jason Arnott's flip from outside the right circle 1:55 later to cap the Devils' scoring.
"It's always great to start off on a good note. We played a pretty good hockey game tonight," Elias said. "Me personally, I didn't feel very good tonight. I was a little tired out there and I wasn't really happy about my game. But we worked through it and the end result is the most important one."
Irbe started the last 26 games of the regular season, then admitted he was tired. He did not look sharp in the opener.
"I don't think it was necessarily the best game that Arturs played. But he certainly was not the poorest performer on the ice," Maurice said. "He was very good in the first period. The second goal was probably the one he'd like to have back. But I'm not sure he had chances on the other ones. And he made some real solid saves."
Rookie Josef Vasicek spoiled Martin Brodeur's shutout bid with 8:33 remaining, beating him to the glove side with a wrister from the left circle.
"You don't win a series with one game, it takes four," Carolina left wing Rob DiMaio said. "I think we got the jitters out, that's for sure, and now we've got to make it a series and concentrate on the next one. You can't look at it (as discouraging). I think we have to look at it and take whatever positives we can out of it."
Game Two is Sunday afternoon in New Jersey.