When the Florida Panthers return home Saturday Night with their quarter final matchup tied at two games apiece with the New Jersey Devils they will be looking to key guys to help them bounce back from a 4-0 loss on Thursday night. After a historic 4-3 comeback win in New Jersey in Game 3, the Panthers could not run the tables on Thursday when they were also facing a 3-0 early deficit as Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur stood tall making 26 saves in a 4-0 victory.
Luckily for the Panthers, they will return home tonight for Game 5 where they went 21-9-11 this season. But, home ice advantage isn’t the only thing that will help out the cats tonight as they will be looking for key guys to step up and help them win. Sean Bergenheim leads the Panthers this offseason in points with two goals and two assists. Unfortunately for the Cats, Bergenehim was held off the score sheet Thursday night as he could not convert on any of his 3 shots in the loss. Bergenheim – who was never known to be a big point producer took fire in last year’s post season for the Tampa Bay Lightning scoring 9 goals in 16 games, proving to be a key player in the Bolts run to the Eastern Conference Finals. This season, in only 62 games, Bergenheim managed to keep his scoring touch as he netted 17 goals in just 62 games. If the Panthers want to break out of the scoring slump tonight, Bergy will be the guy looked upon to put the puck in the back of the net.
Stephen Weiss waited 10 seasons to make the postseason; now that his time is here he has to step up his game if he wants his Panthers to play beyond the first round. Weiss, who has been a leader all season with the Panthers, put up 20 goals and 57 points this year in 80 games. Weiss was a key factor in a game two victory at home as he managed to burry two goals – one coming just 23 seconds into the game as the Panthers stunned the Devils, who were unable to recover from the early deficit in a 4-3 victory. On Tuesday, Weiss was able to score on both of the shots he sent towards the net, but since then has only managed one shot in both games 3 and 4. If the Cats want to win, they need to create more opportunities for Weiss to shoot the puck.
Jason Garrison as it stands right now is questionable for tonight’s matchup with the Devils. But, the Panthers realize that if they want to win, Garrison must be in the lineup. Garrison played in 77 games for Florida this season where he set both a personal and franchise record in goals by defensemen (16), and this is the first time in 12 seasons that the team made the Playoffs – coincidence? Also, it should be taken note of that when Garrison was not in the lineup the club posted a dismal 1-3-1 record, a time when the Panthers fell short of their offensive capabilities. Garrison also had a point in both games 2 and 3, both of which games in the series that the Panthers won. Ironically enough it be Game 4, when Garrison was out of the lineup that the Cats failed to beat Martin Brodeur.
If the Panthers want to step up and win game 5 tonight on home ice, they will be looking for these three guys to step up and create a spark in the lineup. Space is going to have to be created for the trio in order to get pucks on net in hopes of pulling out a victory.
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