The Rangers drew first blood in Game 1 at home against the Penguins, but it wasn't easy.
Derick Brassard scored 28 seconds into the game and Ryan McDonagh added to the lead later in the first period, but the Rangers, behind Henrik Lundqvist, had to hang on for a 2-1 victory.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night.
Lundqvist (24 saves), who finished the season 5-1 with a 1.99 goals against average after returning from a vascular injury to his neck, stopped all nine shots he faced in the third to preserve the lead as the Rangers became prone to turnovers.
Marc Andre-Fleury kept the Penguins in it with 25 stops in the final two periods after the Penguins trailed 2-0, and 36 overall.
"It's one step and one game," said McDonagh, who scored his first career playoff-winner and played a team-high 25:36. "We'll have some things to look at and try to get better. We got away from our structure a little bit in the second. It starts with making sure we're better with puck decisions and taking the goalie's eyes away. But you get the nerves out, you get the hits and bumps going."
The Rangers played the final 9:29 with five defensemen. Chris Kunitz had raced down the left boards and his hard pass attempt came up off Dan Girardi's stick and caught Girardi in the jaw, and he went off, under his own power, to the locker room. He did not return.
Alain Vigneault said after the game that Girardi is going to the dentist Friday. There was no immediate word of his status. Girardi had a team-high six blocks.
"All the waiting and getting ready for the playoffs, getting the first one helps us to get going in the right direction," said Keith Yandle, who played his first postseason game as a Ranger. He set up McDonagh's goal at 15:16 of the first.
The Rangers were 1-for-5 on the power play, but Yandle thought the Blueshirts "did a good job" against the NHL's third-best penalty-killers. "During the playoffs, teams are going to be diving and blocking shots. So we just have to keep shooting," he said.
The Rangers didn't let their five-day layoff affect them.
Just 28 seconds into the game, Brassard raced in to bury a rebound of Rick Nash's slap shot. The crowd was given lighted bracelets, which flashed red, white and blue after the goal, the second-fastest by a Ranger in the playoffs. Ed Hospodar scored at 27 seconds in Game 2 of the first round on April 9, 1981 in Los Angeles. Brassard leads all Rangers in playoff points -- with 25 -- since 2013.
"He shot for a rebound," Brassard said of Nash. "I was just driving to the net and got a bounce. I was just really excited to get us going. I thought we played a really solid game. We used our speed, we cycled the puck, we were playing around the net, the way we talked about it."
His goal was exactly the curtain-raiser that the Rangers, who are the No. 1 seed in the postseason, needed against the Penguins, who committed four penalties in the first 20 minutes, which kept skilled center Sidney Crosby off the ice for all but 3:42.
In the second, after five minutes of forechecking and five saves from Fleury, the Pens cut the lead in half. Dan Boyle tangled with Maxim Lapierre in front and former Islander Blake Comeau beat Brassard to a loose puck and found the far side of the net at 6:15.
"It's always important to build in a series," Lundqvist said. "It was definitely a good start."