The first playoff game in Sunrise Florida had all the energy, electricity and excitement you could ask for…..Until the New Jersey Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. After having to kill off six minutes of penalties in the first period, the Panthers almost didn’t know what hit them. In all honesty after seeing the Devils get 26 shots in the first, Florida was lucky that it was only 3-0.
Jose Theodore was not held at fault for those goals as both John Madden and head coach Kevin Dineen both were pleased with Theo’s effort despite the end result. Theodore was under attack for most of the first period with the play mostly in the Panthers end. Theo was forced to make two to three saves at a time, and fortunately a better second and third period allowed the Panthers to catch their breathe and settle down.
Kris Versteeg commented that the crowd gave the club some much needed energy, and maybe just a tad too much, but once things settled down, the Panthers should some resiliency. The line of Marcel Goc, Mikael Samuelsson and Sean Bergenheim was excellent as Bergy had one goal, and Sammy had two assists. Goc also had an assist to give that line four points on the night.
Once we got to the third period, the Devils and Pete DeBoer borrowed a chapter from the Jacques Martin school of hockey and clogged up the neutral zone, giving Florida little room to generate much offence, and protecting the lead at the same time. It almost backfired.
So in my quick analysis, the Panthers had a slow start, made some mistakes, but rebounded to show that they can stick with this Devils team. In addition, Ilya Kovalchuk was a non factor, and anytime you can shut him down, you’re doing a good job.
A crowd of over 19,000 was here, dressed in red, and waving red rally towels. It was an exciting night, and we’ll be back at it on Sunday.
Come back in the morning for a full recap by Dave Lasseter.
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