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 in New York.
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 today at Madison Square Garden.
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 in the first period.
Canucks 2, Stars 1: At Dallas, Trevor Linden shoveled a rebound past Marty Turco with 5:31 left in the third period and defenseman Willie Mitchell prevented a tie by sweeping a trickling puck off the goal line, giving Vancouver a victory over the Stars.
Vancouver leads the series 3-1. The Canucks can advance to the second round – and avoid a return trip to Texas – with a victory at home Thursday.
Wild 4, Ducks 1: At St. Paul, Minn., Marian Gaborik scored a rare power-play goal and Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves to help Minnesota avoid a sweep with a victory over Anaheim.
Minnesota still faces a daunting task. Only two teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0 deficits to advance, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game 5 is Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.
Senators 2, Penguins 1: At Pittsburgh, Anton Volchenkov scored on a slap shot from the slot midway through the third period and Ottawa moved within one victory of eliminating the Penguins.
Ottawa takes a 3-1 lead into Game 5 at home on Thursday night, where the teams split the first two games in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Flames 3, Red Wings 2: At Calgary, Alberta, Jarome Iginla scored the go-ahead goal at 9:21 of the third period, leading the Flames over Detroit.
Game 4 will be Thursday night at Calgary, with Detroit leading 2-1.
Around the league
Calgary Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr aggravated a knee injury, forcing him to miss Game 3 of the opening playoff series with the Detroit Red Wings. Flames coach Jim Playfair hopes to have Regehr in the lineup for Game 4 on Thursday. … General manager Jim Rutherford signed a five-year contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes. … Philadelphia All-Star forward Simon Gagne underwent surgery to repair a small hernia on his right side and a larger hernia on his left side. He was expected to need up to two months for a complete recovery.