NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 19: Tomas Fleischmann #14 of the Florida Panthers is stopped by Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils as Stephen Gionta #11 skates in to help in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 19, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After an improbable comeback in game three, the Florida Panthers took a 2-1 series lead back into New Jersey and threatened to continue to roll after winning the past two games of the series. The Devils, after an epic collapse in the previous game, needed to regroup and try to right the ship to ensure they didn't go down 3-1 before heading back to Sunrise for game five. The Devils did just that and put together probably their best game of the series so far, dropping the Panthers 4-0 and giving Martin Brodeur his 24th career postseason shutout. After a scoreless first period, the Devils slowly started tilting the ice their way, chipping away at the Panthers with solid neutral zone play and a relentless forecheck. The Panthers would let up the first goal to Zach Parise off a deflected puck during the second period, but the game would remain close.
That is, until the third period, when the Devils opened up offensively and scored three goals in the first 8:32 of the period. The Panthers couldn't seem to get any sustained pressure to counter and despite some chances on the man advantage, which has proven lethal for Florida through three games, the Cats simply could not beat Brodeur. It's a disappointing follow-up effort to the incredible comeback from the previous game, and one that the Panthers and head coach Kevin Dineen likely feel was a wasted opportunity to put the Devils in a 3-1 hole heading back home to Florida.
- No scoring2nd
- Scott Clemmensen would get the nod for the first playoff start of his NHL career. He looked very sharp and confident and played a solid game despite not getting the win. The Bernier goal was really the only blemish on an otherwise good night for Clemmer, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him back in net the next game.
- Florida had a lot of trouble getting anything going offensively against New Jersey. They had some fantastic scoring chances throughout the game but had a lot of trouble getting sustained offensive pressure in the Jersey zone. It was a stark contrast to the last game, where Florida outworked the Devils in their own zone for most of the game and played great puck possession hockey.
- Special teams were again the difference in the game. Just as it was last game, the team with the best powerplay and PK production came out on top. This time around, it was New Jersey who converted twice on the man advantage while Florida couldn't buy a goal. Both Panther powerplay units looked a bit disjointed and any chances they were able to generate, Brodeur was there.
- Jason Garrison would be a scratch due to a newly disclosed lower-body injury. Keaton Ellerby would play his first game since March 15, and it looked it. He wasn't terrible but looked a bit tentative and shaky. He took a high-sticking penalty in the second that led to the Parise goal to open the scoring in the game. He would also leave the game in the second period after catching his hip on an open door at the Devils bench. All in all, not the best night for young Ellerby.
- Brodeur looked a lot better in this game. He was sharp on a lot of Florida chances throughout the game and again stretched Florida's defensive coverage with his puck handling abilities. When he's on his game he's tough to beat, but the New Jersey defense was much better in front of him in this game as well.
- Stephen Weiss was again fantastic on draws and again played another solid two-way game. He had a bit of a scare late in the second when he dove to stop Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway chance, and caught Kovalchuk's skate off his face, cutting him and sending him to the dressing room. Luckily for Weiss and the Panthers, it was just a nick and he would return.
- Erik Gudbranson played a very physical game and he absolutely destroyed Clarkson in the Panthers zone late in the third. He's been very good so far in the series after a little bit of a shaky start and it's great to see him starting to develop some playoff character and leadership. He's likely going to be wearing a Florida sweater for a very long time and it's a great thing for both the Panthers and Gudbranson that he's already growing into that role.
- Sean Bergenheim has been an absolute sparkplug every shift. He's skating, hitting, shooting and scoring, and aside from the scoring part he did everything again. He always plays at a high level but you can really see him picking it up for the postseason.
- Chico Resch is really hard to listen to for an entire broadcast. That is all.
1st: Marty Brodeur. A shutout, but not just any shutout, as he passes Patrick Roy for the all-time lead in playoff shutouts.
2nd: The Devils third line. Every time they're on the ice, Florida has trouble answering them.
3rd: Marek Zidlicky was probably the best Devil player other than Brodeur. He had several great defensive plays and quarterbacked the blueline better than anyone in a Panther sweater.
"It would have been nice to get a couple goals early, but we’re going home with two of three at home. We’re in good shape,’’ Stephen Weiss said. "That’s a good club and they were desperate.’’
Martin Broduer, who was pulled when Florida came back with three consecutive goals on Tuesday, was as sharp as ever and stopped all 26 shots to earn his 24th postseason shutout. Broduer now holds the NHL record for postseason shutouts, passing Montreal/Colorado great Patrick Roy.
"We knew they would be a very hungry team and they proved that,’’ said Scott Clemmensen, who gave up four goals on 27 shots in his first postseason start. "You knew Marty would have a bounce-back game. There would be no easy goals. They needed to be desperate and they were. They didn’t want to go down 3-1. It’s anyone’s series. It’s been a tight series.’’
"We didn't seem to have the desperation they had, even though we were down one goal and we still thought it was a winnable game,'' said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "It seemed we were out of sorts in the third and couldn't establish our offensive game.
"We weren't very accurate tonight and were just hoping to get shots on net and create rebounds instead of scoring on the shot and that's not a good formula for success against a goalie like that. We made it an easy game for him.''
Game five back in Sunrise: Puck drops 6:30pm on Saturday and the ever-punctual LBC game thread will bring some hot casserole an hour before game time.