EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing just two days after an emotional victory in the decisive seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals. And they looked it.
Petr Sykora scored twice as the New Jersey Devils used a workmanlike effort to record a 3-1 victory over the Penguins in Game One of the conference finals.
Randy McKay had the other goal for New Jersey, which scored twice on the power play and limited Pittsburgh to 15 shots.
"I thought that they were a little tired," Devils left wing Patrik Elias said. "They played their last three games in overtime, so we knew we wanted to take the body and tire them out. We wanted to jump on them and finish our checks every time we had the chance."
"Obviously, it was a very emotional series against Buffalo and to win in overtime and not get much rest, I think showed in the third period," Penguins All-Star center Mario Lemieux said. "Now we have two full days to get ready for the next game."
The Penguins struck first, grabbing the lead on Martin Straka's power-play tally 3:06 into the opening period. But they relinquished the lead just over 11 minutes later and managed only eight shots over the final two periods.
Playing on separate lines for the second straight game, Lemieux and fellow superstar Jaromir Jagr combined for just one shot and both were kept off the scoresheet for only the third time in the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Devils continued to get production from their top line as Sykora got the go-ahead goal on the power play with 2:56 left in the second period and added an insurance tally 80 seconds into the third.
In the last four games, New Jersey's "A" line of Sykora, Elias and Jason Arnott has produced eight goals and 11 assists.
"I think the goals I scored tonight were the result of outstanding work from the whole line," Sykora said. "I think all four lines played exceptional tonight. We may have been a little tight the first eight or nine minutes of the game, but we played much better after that."
The Devils appeared tentative early and put Pittsburgh on the power play when defenseman Colin White was penalized for interference 2:39 into the game. The Penguins cashed in 27 seconds later as Straka's blast from the top of the slot tipped off goaltender Martin Brodeur's right pad and found the net on their second shot of the night.
New Jersey got its first power-play chance when Kevin Stevens was sent to the penalty box for holding the stick at 13:02. After blocking a shot and limping to the bench in the game's opening minute, McKay leaned into a wrist shot from high in the left faceoff circle that found the top right corner of the net.
It was the sixth playoff goal for McKay, who scored five times in as many regular-season games against Pittsburgh.
The Devils had the NHL's top-ranked power play during the season. After struggling in the first round against Carolina, they have scored a power-play goal in seven straight games.
"We're starting to jell again," McKay said. "We're moving the puck better. During the regular season, we had about one or two specific plays that we worked on. Teams eventually started to stop us, so we knew we had to switch it up."
Bobby Holik energized the crowd in the final seconds of the first period when he checked defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, the Penguins' Game Seven hero, into the New Jersey bench.
"If it helps to set a tone for the series, then great," Holik said. "I need to play that way in order to be successful. The moment I let up, then they'll have more chances. I just need to continue to play as physical as I can."
Sykora made it two power-play goals in as many chances late in the second period, scoring with 37 seconds left on Stevens' interference penalty. A great outlet pass by defenseman Brian Rafalski sent Elias into the Penguins' zone. He got the puck to Scott Stevens, then deflected the defenseman's shot into the low slot, where Sykora put a backhander by the left arm of a lunging Hedberg.
New Jersey had a 13-3 edge in shots in the second period and nearly extended its lead in the final seconds when Hedberg made a point-blank stop on Elias.
"We played real well in the first period, but for some reason, we changed our game plan in the second," Lemieux said. "I thought we sat back a little too much and gave them too many opportunities."
Both teams have five shots in the third period, but the Devils controlled play and doubled their lead on Sykora's sixth playoff goal. Elias got to a dump-in in the left corner and passed to Sykora, who was unchecked in the faceoff circle and one-timed a wrister by Hedberg's stick side.
"I think we got a little tired at the end," Lemieux said. "They took advantage of their opportunities and you have to give them a lot of credit for how well they played. We played real well in the first period, but for some reason, we changed our game plan in the second. I thought we sat back a little too much and gave them too many opportunities."
While Brodeur had to stop just 14 shots, Hedberg made 18 saves.
"I'm used to that, playing behind the defense that I do," Brodeur said. "Despite the lack of shots, it was easy to stay sharp because it was too warm in the building to get cold."