April 17, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; The Florida Panthers celebrate a goal by defenseman Mike Weaver (43) during the second period of game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

The Comeback Cats Ready For Game Four


April 17, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell (51) and center Stephen Weiss (9) congratulate goalie Scott Clemmensen (30) after defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

 

Goal scored by number 9, Zach Parise at 0:33 seconds! Goal scored by number 11, Stephen Gionta at 3:27! Goal scored by number 26, Patrick Elias at 6:16! The New Jersey Devils take an early 3-0 lead against the Florida Panthers at home during game 3 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals. Now I’m no Barry Melrose, however I know that that isn’t the way to start off your first road playoff game in 12 years, actually that’s no way to start off any game, playoffs or no playoffs.

But yes, that is how game three started for the Panthers. Similar to game one the team found themselves in an early battle as the Devils came out of the gate the more intense and ready team, scoring three goals in the first 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Normally a 3-0 deficit on the road would definitely rattle any team’s confidence, but clearly not the Panthers. After coach Kevin Dineen went with backup goalie Scott Clemmensen just 6 minutes and 16 seconds into the game, the Panthers seemed to have found new life. The change of goalie might have served as a bit of a wake-up call to the team. And the team responded well. Realizing that they cannot afford to be down in the series as they will play the next game on the road, the gang pulled together an impressive run.

As the first period went on and on, the Devils seemed to be slowed down. Devils players and fans alike all felt the confidence and swagger the team possessed slowly being sucked out of them. With only five minutes left in the first, the Cats knew that they needed to start chipping away with the lead and they needed to do it quickly. And then the unthinkable happened, “Mr. Playoffs” Sean Bergenheim appeared as he netted a power play goal in the top right of the net as he was able to slip past the defense using his great speed and skating ability. This seemed to do a lot for the Cats, as once they put their foot on the gas petal; they didn’t bother to let up. Just three minutes later defensemen Jason Garrison was able to score on yet another power play. As the Panthers continued to make their way back in the game, New Jersey felt there grasp on the lead slipping away as they continued to take bad penalties which gave the Panthers hot power play an opportunity to get the team back in the game.

After what I’m sure was a brutal first intermission for the Devils, New Jersey came out wanting to respond. However, that was unsuccessful. Who did the responding? The Florida Panthers did as they came out firing at the net as defensemen Mike Weaver scored the game tying goal just 2:18 into the second. Just like the Devils lead was gone their starting goalie, Marty Brodeur was benched. Fans at the Prudential Center were quickly silenced as the fans at the Panthers watch party at Duffy’s were going wild. With all the momentum going Florida’s way, the team kept increasing their shot total as they were relentless in their effort to take the lead. Four minutes after Weaver was able to tie the game, the Panthers “quarterback” Brian Campbell took charge as his wrist shot found a way into the net and past backup goalie Johan Hedberg.

After they were able to gain the lead, the Panthers quickly switched to a more physical style play as they did their best to keep the Devils from retying the game and they were able to do just that. As defenders Ed Jovanovski and Erik Gudbranson kept the hits coming, forwards Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc kept winning important faceoffs, as the Panthers realized they were in good shape to close out the game and earn a victory. It wasn’t easy though as the Devils continued to fight to try and tie the game. However they were unable to and the Panthers came out victorious.

That was Tuesday. Tonight is Thursday and the Panther and Devils are back at it tonight. Despite winning the last game, the Panthers cannot come out tonight sleepwalking again. If the Panthers come out sluggish in game four, they might not be as lucky as they were Tuesday. The Devils are going to want to earn revenge and will be coming out hot as they look to tie the series up at home. New Jersey knows that tonight’s game is a must win, as they do not want to have to play an elimination game in game five in South Florida. With game four being a huge game for both teams involved in the series, both teams are going to be looking to feed off one another’s energy and the energy from the fans. Who will bring the momentum back to South Florida in this all around tough and well played series?

 

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Tags: Barry Melrose Brian Campbell Ed Jovanovski Erik Gudbranson Featured Florida Panthers Jason Garrison Marcel Goc Marty Brodeur Mike Weaver New Jersey Devils Nhl Playoffs Patrick Elias Popular Scott Clemmensen Sean Bergenheim Stephen Gionta Stephen Weiss Zach Parise