NEW YORK (AP) -Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander made Kari Lehtonen long for his safe spot on the bench. And the New York Rangers' top line needed less than a period to do it.
Lehtonen got the curious start over Johan Hedberg and then endured a thorough beating as the Rangers scored three times in the first period and cruised to a 7-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers that gave New York a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference playoff series Tuesday night.
Nylander had his first playoff hat trick, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots in his first NHL playoff shutout for the Rangers, who can advance to the second round as early as Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Lehtonen was touched for all seven goals on 35 shots. That was enough for the Rangers' victory theme ``Sweet Caroline'' to play with 5:16 remaining over chants of ``Sweep! Sweep!''
Jagr assisted on all three of Nylander's scores and they teamed to set up defenseman Marek Malik for another that made it 3-0 at 12:26. But Nylander had the quickest strike of all when he wired a shot under Lehtonen's shoulder 32 seconds after the opening faceoff on New York's initial shot.
Rookie Ryan Callahan scored twice in the second period, defenseman Fedor Tyutin earned his fifth assist of the series, and Brendan Shanahan and Nylander added goals in the final frame.
Senators 2, Penguins 1
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Light-scoring Anton Volchenkov sent a slap shot from the slot for a goal midway through the third period and the Ottawa Senators moved within one victory of eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ottawa takes a 3-1 lead into Game 5 on Thursday night, where the teams split the first two games in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Volchenkov, a defenseman, scored only once in 78 games during the season and had only one previous playoff goal, four years and a day before scoring his second. He has only nine goals in 229 career regular-season games.
The Senators got off to a fast start, as they have done throughout the series, and took a 1-0 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes gone when Jason Spezza's intended pass toward the net deflected off Penguins rookie Jordan Staal's stick and into the net. There has been a goal scored in the opening four minutes of every game.
Staal scored a goal of his own for the Penguins in the second period, tying it at 1.
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