After a very dismal showing against the New York Rangers, you had to figure the Panthers would bounce back against the New Jersey Devils at home. Unfortunately for Florida, they only had enough gas in the tank to take this one to a shootout, and there are few teams in the NHL that are better than New Jersey in the extra frame. The Devils would win this one 3-2 off a Patrick Elias shootout goal, giving New Jersey a big road win and handing Florida their third loss in a row. Two of those three losses were in overtime, so at the very least, the Panthers collected points in two of three games and with Washington losing Tuesday night, they widened their division lead by another point. Still, there's no question the Panthers wanted to win this one in regulation, but Pete DeBoer's team had other ideas.
The Devils started the game with some great shifts from several lines and managed to draw a penalty about four minutes in, but the call for that penalty was interrupted as newcomer Krys Barch decided to dance with Cam Janssen. After the tussle, Mike Santorelli went to the box for holding, putting the Cats on the PK early. Florida was able to kill off the penalty without too much trouble, with Marco Sturm and Shawn Matthias applying some shorthanded pressure on Martin Brodeur. New Jersey kept the pressure on, getting several quality chances on Jose Theodore, who had to be sharp early as the Devils controlled much of the pace of play through the first ten minutes. At times, it seemed the only line that applied any real pressure for the Panthers was the second line comprised of Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim and Mikael Samuelsson. That is, until the top line struck again, as the Devils weren't able to clear the zone after some great pressure by the Panthers fourth line themselves. After a terrible turnover by rookie Adam Larsson, Stephen Weiss set up Kris Versteeg with a beautiful pass, and Versteeg tapped it in off a between-the-legs shot to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. That seemed to wake Florida up as the top line nearly scored again off another New Jersey turnover. The Panthers would take a delay of game penalty late in the period as Barch tried to go high off the glass to clear the zone, but instead put it into the stands. Luckily for Florida, they were able to kill it off, and went into the first intermission with a one goal lead.
The Cats came out pressuring New Jersey well as the Matthias line nearly converted against Brodeur several times. The Cats took a penalty as Ed Jovanovski was caught high sticking after getting beat on a rush for a loose puck in the Panther zone and the Devils had their second chance on the man advantage. The Panthers killed off majority of the penalty and then struck off another Devils turnover, as Versteeg netted his first shorty of the year (and second of the game), beating Brodeur high off a breakaway. Unfortunately, Florida seemed to get caught up with the goal and let the Devils come back and pot one less than a minute after Versteeg's goal, with Elias scoring the Devils' first of the game. The physicality from the Panthers picked up in the period, as Versteeg laid out a solid hit, and Matt Bradley and Jovanovski started getting more involved. The play went back and forth for the rest of the period as both teams had some quality chances and both goalies stood up to the task. The Panthers went on the PK yet again late in the second period as Weiss went off for hooking with 43 seconds left in the period. Something to note: the Devils finished the second with a total of 29 shots for the game. That's too high after two.
THe Panthers would start the period down a man thanks to the Weiss penalty, and the Cats were able to kill it off. Luckily thanks to all the action at the end of the second, both Kovalchuk and Zach Parise were in the box which made the Devils powerplay that much less dangerous. The Panthers would follow up with a ton of pressure from the top line, with Fleischmann hitting the post and Weiss missing just high off a great feed from Fleischmann. Florida would regret not capitalizing on those chances, as Zach Parise would score to tie it at two not long after. The Devils kept up the forechecking pressure, which they were doing so well, but took a tripping call as Dainus Zubrus went to the box. Florida would get their first powerplay of the game but do nothing with it as the Devils would kill it off with little trouble. For most of the remainder of the third, the Devils would keep pressure on the Panthers, spending most of the time in the Florida zone. The game looked to be going to overtime but the Devils had other plans with just seconds remaining in the period, just barely missing what looked to be an easy tap in as Petr Sykora choked on an easy one. Theodore came up big on the rebound off the wall and the game went to overtime.
Florida had the better of the pressure in OT, and there were two missed calls against the Devils that would have given the Cats a powerplay. Once again the officiating had you scratching your head a bit, especially on a great rush by Kopecky, who was clearly hooked just before he reached Brodeur. The Devils didn't register a single shot in the OT period, but the Cats couldn't score and things proceeded to a shootout.
Kovalchuk scores against Theodore
Fleischmann stuffed by Brodeur
Parise stopped by Theodore
Versteeg stoned by Brodeur
Elias scores five hole on Theodore, Devils win
- Four games, three fights. Barch knows his role, and does it well. So far he's been a decent pickup by Florida to fill out the fourth line. He's giving a physical attribute to this team that was definitely lacking.
- Santorelli was back in this game after being a healthy scratch against the Rangers. He started on the fourth line and took a holding penalty early in the first. That's not going to help his case much, and he's looking a bit tentative, seemingly devoid of confidence. That said, he skated his tail off in this game and in my opinion deserved a stick tap for his efforts.
- The Cats missed the net a fair amount from the point. Gotta shore that up whenever possible, especially with the quality shooters on Florida's blueline.
- Another game, another great effort from Matthias. His shorthanded work with Sturm in the first was fantastic. He's centering the second line and looks like a second line center so far. He was again
- Dineen may have found a legitimate second line for the team as Matthias centered Bergenheim and Samuelsson. They applied pressure on every shift and worked incredibly hard. There's a lot of hidden talent on that line as well, as both Sammy and Matty have good hands and Bergy has some great wheels. Let's hope Dineen keeps that line together from here on out, especially if they get as many chances as they had against New Jersey.
- The officiating in this game wasn't bad, but it was a little suspect considering all the contact and scrums that took place. New Jersey definitely came out on top in the penalties drawn department.
- There was a bit more physical play from the Cats tonight, and it's the first game I can really recall this season where it felt like Florida was the more physical team. Hats off to Jovanovski, who hasn't looked great so far this season. If he wants to be an impact player on this team, it's going to have to be in his own zone, punishing opposing forwards and making a good first outlet pass. He did that in this game, and helped push the pace of the Cats' physical play.
- Adam Henrique has been very good for New Jersey this season and at times looked quite good in this game. He's got some natural talent and great hands, and reminds me a little of Logan Couture in his rookie season.
- Cheers to Mike Weaver, who went right after Ilya Kovalchuk after he took a run at Tomas Fleischmann. As fans of this team know, that's a characteristic that GM Dale Tallon wanted out of everyone: the character to defend your teammates and take a stand. It's great to see and makes guys like Weaver that much more endearing to fans.
- Keaton Ellerby looked pretty calm and composed. Between he and Erik Gudbranson, Ellerby looks like the better of the two and deserves more play time at this point. Still, it's a very nice problem to have: which young and super-talented defenseman would you like to play tonight?
- Good god, I HATE watching Kovalchuk in OT. Every time he touches the puck you hold your breath. He's not having huge years in a Devils sweater, but he still puts you on the edge of your seat.
- Great bounceback effort by Theodore.