NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 24: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils looks back at Ed Jovanovski #55 of the Florida Panthers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 24, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With a chance to shut down the New Jersey Devils' season and earn a couple days of rest before the next round, the Florida Panthers came into game six knowing that they once again controlled their own fate, and only 60 minutes of hard work would give them that golden ticket into the second round. However, for large stretches of the game, it was the Devils donning the hard hats, outworking the Panthers and outshooting them by a ridiculous margin of 42-16. Despite that huge shot differential, the Panthers would keep it close and send the game to overtime, only to lose in the first OT frame to a Travis Zajac game winner. Scott Clemmensen, starting in place of the injured Jose Theodore, would best opposing netminder Martin Brodeur in all of the statistical categories, but not the one that really mattered: wins.
The Panthers, to their credit, played a great defensive game despite the high shot total and Clemmensen made several big stops to keep the score tied at crucial points in the game. The lack of offensive production from the Panthers during a time when their killer instinct was sorely needed was a very disappointing sight, though some credit certainly must be given to the defensive efforts of the Devils. With this tough overtime loss for Florida, the Panthers will look to regroup and return home to Sunrise for a series-deciding game seven and attempt to prove the pundits and critics wrong one last time during this quarterfinals round.
- While Clemmensen did turn aside 39 shots, two of the three goals he did allow were stoppable. He played a very good game, but not great, and that's what Florida needed to win this game due to the fact that they were outworked for long stretches of the game, and were drastically outshot. It's not fair to blame this loss on Clemmensen, but he needed to be at his best and didn't quite reach that mark.
- The Devils started off at a much slower pace than some of their previous home games, and steadily controlled most of the first period. They led the Panthers in shots by a wide margin and didn't get caught with any odd-man rushes or bad changes. Both goalies looked good but Clemmensen had to make more difficult saves than Brodeur, who didn't see a lot of rubber thrown his way. By about midway through the second, it was obvious that New Jersey was dominating the game, as they had a massive shot advantage and a two goal lead. It was very disconcerting and you started to wonder if the Panthers would elevate their game to match the work ethic of the Devils.
- The Cats took a high sticking penalty early in the second period, giving New Jersey the game's first powerplay. The Panthers PK looked really good and did a fantastic job limiting the shots against and keeping chances to the outside. That is, until both John Madden and Erik Gudbranson forgot Kovalchuk likes to sneak in from the point, and that's exactly what happened next. Kovalchuk would slide down and get an easy tap in past Clemmensen. Panthers can't let that happen.
- There were quite a few missed penalties against both teams in this one. I'm not the first one to point this out, but the officiating in the playoffs from series to series has been horribly erratic and drastically different from game to game. It's never going to be perfect, but it needs to be better than it has been in the consistency department.
- New Jersey did something in game six that they could not do in game five: stay out of the box. The Panthers only had one powerplay the entire game and that helped New Jersey's case. When the Panthers did have a shot at the man advantage, New Jersey looked their regular season selves and killed it off relatively easily.
- Tyson Strachan has played significant minutes in the last two games and has looked like he's been here all along. He's been cool as the other side of the pillow both with and without the puck and hasn't let the quicker forwards from New Jersey elude him. He also picked up his first career playoff point by assisting on Bergenheim's goal in the second period.
- Florida started to get severely outworked about halfway through the third period as New Jersey's desperation started to set in. Alexei Ponikarovsky would get as good of a chance to score as anyone had in the game, but shot the puck directly into Clemmensen's pads to keep the game even at two apiece.
- The Panthers would start out the third period down a man as Scottie Upshall would have a carry-over roughing call from the second period. Immediately after the puck dropped, Brian Campbell would try to clear the puck and end up earning a delay of game penalty, putting Florida down two men. The Panthers would respond with an utterly fantastic PK effort to keep the game knotted at two early in the third, led by some solid puck possession and backchecking by Tomas Kopecky.
- The Cats simply need to fire more shots at the shaky Brodeur, and get more traffic in front. If they do that, game seven will likely be theirs.
- Anyone else agree with me that Pierre McGuire looks like the Shmoo?