The Ottawa Senators got to Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils early and often, and then avoided what could have been an embarrassing letdown.

Jason Spezza scored 90 seconds into the game, and the visiting Senators jumped to a 4-0, first-period lead before holding on for a 5-4 victory last night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

"We made it harder than it should have been," Senators goaltender Ray Emery said after making 26 saves to help Ottawa win its fourth straight playoff game. "You know that team will rebound and they will not go down without a fight."

The Devils certainly put a scare into Ottawa, drawing within 4-3 early in the second period. A shot off the goal post by Scott Gomez nearly tied the game later in the second.

"We weren't as sharp after we got the lead," said Senators defenseman Wade Redden, whose third-period power-play goal gave the Senators a two-goal cushion until the closing minute. "The start of the game, we really controlled the play. We were moving it crisp and we had guys in forechecking. I guess it's human nature to sit back a bit."

Spezza, Joe Corvo, Dean McAmmond and Dany Heatley all scored in the opening 16:39 to give Ottawa the big cushion.

"I think they were kind of watching us play," Corvo said. "We were doing all the right things and we were all over them. We were scoring on basically every shot."

Travis Zajac, Brian Gionta and Andy Greene cut the Ottawa lead to 4-3 early in the second period. Zach Parise made it 5-4 with 30 seconds left.

New Jersey played without captain Patrik Elias, who was sidelined with the effects of a lingering cold.

In another game:

* At Detroit, Matt Carle and Mike Grier scored 24 seconds apart midway through the first period and Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves to lead San Jose to a 2-0 victory over the Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Nabokov's shutout was his first this postseason and the fifth of his career in the playoffs. He was tied for second in the NHL with seven during the regular season.

Detroit's Dominik Hasek had to make just 17 saves because the Sharks played very conservatively after taking the two-goal lead.


* New York's Michal Rozsival missed practice, potentially leaving the Rangers minus their top offensive defenseman for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Buffalo tonight.

* Pittsburgh defenseman Ryan Whitney had surgery on his left wrist. The 24-year-old Whitney eeds 6 to 8 weeks of rehabilitation, but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

* Boston signed goalie Hannu Toivonen to a 1-year contract extension. *