For what could have become of the game after the first period, be thankful the Panthers didn't embarrass themselves in their first playoff game in 12 years. With the final outcome still resulting in a 1-0 series deficit for the Florida Panthers, at least the Cats had some measure of success by filling in the hole they created in a first period that saw the Devils roll with three goals by scoring two of their own to bring the game to its final score. In the end, it obviously wasn't enough, but as a learning experience Kevin Dineen's troops have a lot to take from Game One and an idea of what they need to do for Sunday's match.
The New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, did exactly what analysts predicted they would do: come out strong and play a complete game in all regards. The Panthers probably showed more resilience than people expected, though the Devils defense and goaltending shut down the comeback bid to win the game in regulation. Take away the terrible first period and the game would have been a more characteristic match-up between the Panthers and the Devils, defined by tight goaltending and defensive dominance, something I expect to see in the second game of the series.
-06:31 Patrik Elias(1) assist to Dainius Zubrus
-14:56 Ryan Carter(1) unassisted
- Though starting former Devil Scott Clemmensen might have made a better story, it would be the playoff traveled starter Jose Theodore who would eventually get the call from Kevin Dineen to face off against Marty Brodeur. I'm no longer phased by this decision, Theodore had all week to clear his head and shift focus to the playoffs, while backing him up is the hot hand of Clemmensen. I expect a short leash for Theo due to that reason, though I'm sure if things go sour it wont be due to goaltending.
- With 82 regular season games in the book, I'm always amazed at the energy two banged up teams can come out with in the first game of the playoffs. Maybe that six day break has something to do with it.
- Patrik Elias would cap off a incredible streak of momentum from the Devils when Theodore got caught high in his net with his teammates strewn across the ice. Elias would be left alone at the side of the net, make a nifty move to drop Theodore and increase his shooting angle before lifting the puck into the net.
- How do you quantify the New Jersey pressure? Well, shots were 13-4 seven minutes into first period. Yeah, it was bad. It's great that Theodore was playing so well, but the problem is the forwards putting only 6 shots on goal in 15 minutes.
- Dainius Zubrus would put the period away as he broke through defenders and sent the puck past Theodore blocker-side from the hashmarks. If Zubrus put the period away, former Panther Ryan Carter would put the nail in the first period's coffin with a goal coming in a similar fashion. Remember the early speed the Panthers showed? 3 goals will take the wind out of anyone's sails.
- You see, the problem with going on the powerplay against the Devils is the odds of scoring a powerplay goal on them are about as good as giving up a shorthanded goal.
- Sean Bergenheim scored a timely goal for the Panthers as Samuelsson and Goc sprung him a pass along the boards where he'd beat Anton Volchenkov and roofed the puck as he cut through the crease. Well, a sign of life from another team's playoff hero is at least a sign of life.
- Kris Versteeg really needed to heat up after a miserable end of his season. He did just that by crashing the net on the powerplay, much as he did back when he was scoring goals earlier in the season.
- Love him or hate him(and really, you shouldn't have a reason to hate him at all), you can't argue that Peter DeBoer hasn't done a good job for the Devils. The fact he had a much more complete roster in Newark and a healthy Zach Parise comes to mind, but those things alone didn't secure his team a 100+ point season.
- The defense-minded third period resembled the series I was expecting to see between the Panthers and Devils. But fear not, we'll probably see this for the next three games. Strap yourself in!
- 19,119 fans would be in attendance at the BAC...well, 19119 seats were sold at least. That's how you get a new scoreboard.
- The MSG+ guys mentioned the captain-less Panthers and Samuelsson's quote on the matter, all whilst focusing on old buddy Ed Jovanovski with the cameras. They also hinted at Clemmensen pointing to Jovo as the man who wears the invisible "C". But since Clemmensen doesn't play much, he's unfamiliar with names and numbers. Ed wears #43, right?
1st Period Recap: Both teams busted through the gates with speed trading rushes, but New Jersey looked to have the advantage for a good five minutes before their first goal from Elias. The Panthers would settle the game a bit after, but the limited shots on Brodeur would either be from the perimeter or soft. Shawn Matthias would take a four minute high sticking penalty as he clipped New Jersey defender Andy Greene. Florida would kill off most of the powerplay, but with a few seconds left Zubrus would pot a goal as he streaked in alone. 45 seconds later, Carter would extend the Panthers' woes with a third goal through the five-hole. Florida would again be called for a penalty, but it would be killed uneventfully as the period ended.
2nd Period Recap: Florida started the period off with some urgency spending more time in the Devils zone, drawing a puck over the glass delay of game penalty. With the penalty killed and the game firmly settled down, Sean Bergenheim would continue his playoff prowess with the Panthers first goal of the game. Wojtek Wolski would take a stupidly blatant interference call, but the Panthers would kill the penalty quite effectively. Again though it would be Wolski heading to the box, this time due to a tripping penalty that again would be killed. Stephen Gionta would be the next player to the penalty box a tripping call, but this time the penalty killing for the Devils wouldn't look so hot as Kris Versteeg swept the puck 180 from the goal-line under the pads of Broduer for a goal. A skirmish after the goal would see Stephen Weiss and Elias in the box with matching minors, then Volchenkov would be called as he pulled down Scottie Upshall for a 4-on-3 powerplay opportunity which would be killed as the period concluded.
3rd Period Recap: Both teams looked a bit timid to start the period, but around the 15 minute mark the action would heat up again. Both Brodeur and Theodore would be tested from the tops of the circles, but no amazing scoring chances would develop and neither team could control the puck for more than a shift until Theodore stoned Parise on a two-on-one chance with Ilya Kovalchuk. With four minutes left, DeBoer would burn his timeout and regroup his players, while Versteeg would hook Marek Zidlicky meriting a penalty which would be killed, but it would cost the Panthers valuable time. With 66 seconds left in the game and a one goal difference, Dineen would pull Theodore, but the Devils would hold on for the win.
1st: Dainius Zubrus with a goal and an assist was the catalyst to the Devil's first period romp.
2nd: Marty Brodeur would make 26 saves in his 100th career playoff game.
3rd: The Panthers PK --despite allowing a goal in the final seconds of Matthias' bad call, Florida would kill off 5 consecutive penalties in a year the killing has been spotty at best.
Worst: Wojtek Wolski took two dumb penalties back to back to give the Devils unnecessary chances and swing the momentum in New Jersey's favor.
“The next one is the biggest game and it goes from there,'' said goalie Jose Theodore, who faced a Panthers postseason record 26 shots in the opening period. “You definitely don't want to go into their building down 2-0. We settled down in the second and it turned out to be too late. We have to be ready from the start.''
Dineen said he didn't feel his team showed any opening night jitters although it was apparent the Panthers' defensemen – who collectively had the least postseason experience – weren't ready for prime time early on.
“I think there was a mix of nerves and rust out there,'' Versteeg said. “You don't want to make too many excuses. We will give ourselves a chance if we found 60 minutes. I definitely thought we were coming back. We need to get the early lead next time.''
The Devils fired 26 shots in a three-goal first period before clinging to a 3-2 victory over the Panthers in front of a near-soldout, red-clad, rubber rat-tossing, raucous crowd at BankAtlantic Center Friday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
"They've got experience, they came ready,'' said Theodore, who only faced 12 more shots after the first period. "I don't remember the last time I had 26 shots in a period, obviously. I was just trying to give my team a chance to win and make every save.
"Take away that first period and we played a solid game. But in a playoff you cant be down 3-zip.''
Trailing 3-0 after one, the Panthers nearly pulled off an historic, déjà vu-like comeback against these same Devils. In former coach Pete DeBoer's first game back to Sunrise on Nov. 21, the Panthers stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Devils 4-3 on Tomas Fleischmann's late game-winner. That was only the second time in franchise history they had done so.
"It was talked about even after the first that we've done it with this team before,'' Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. "You always have to rely on those things that you've done in the past. But it's frustrating.
"We've got to split here.''
Goalie Martin Brodeur won his 100th career playoff game, outplaying Panthers’ goalie Jose Theodore, who had to face 26 shots from the Devils in a three-goal first period.
“He’s a good goalie, a good competitor,” Brodeur said of Theodore. “He’s been in the league for a lot of years and he’s got some experience. He had some success in the playoffs with Montreal. The goalie who has played (in the playoffs) before knows what to expect.”
They blew a 3-0 first period lead in that game, which was DeBoer’s first back in Florida after being fired by the Panthers at the end of last season.
“That was so long ago I barely remember it,” DeBoer joked. “If you believe that, I’ve got a plot of swampland in Florida for you too that I still own. But, you know what? We’re at a different point in the season. I feel very comfortable with our ability to play with the lead, to play in those situations, much more than I did at that point in the season when we were here the first time. So, while it crosses your mind, my comfort level was real high we were going to respond.”
The Devils struggled protecting third period leads for much of this season, but have cleaned up that part of their game lately and played a solid third period to make the 3-2 lead stand up. They managed only six shots on goal, but also held the Panthers to six shots.
“I thought our third period was great,” DeBoer said. “That’s exactly how you want to play when you have the lead. I thought we bottled them up. We had a couple great chances to score: Zach on the 2-on-1 and Zajac on the power play. If we finish off those, it’s a perfect period, but other than that, that’s about as good a period as you can play with the lead I think.”
Game Two in Sunrise: The Cats and the Devs meet again at the BankAtlantic Center for Game Two, Sunday at 7:30pm EST. The Devils lead the series 1-0.