Panthers drop first playoff game to the Devils, 3-2 in regulation

The Florida Panthers may have been a little overexcited to be in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years - 12 years to the day that they last went to the playoffs, in fact. At least, that's what their first-period play looked like, and they had relatively little offensive against the Devils.

New Jersey put up 26 SOG against Jose Theodore - who gave up 3 goals - while the Panthers didn't even break double digits. The first was Patrik Elias at 6:31; the second was a power play goal by Dainius Zubrus at 14:11, and the third was Ryan Carter at 14:56. The Devils pounded Theodore and nailed the Panthers into their own zone for large stretches at a time. The 26 SOG is a new playoff record for most shots against in a single period. (The previous most was 24 vs the Flyers on May 9, 1996).

Three goals was all that the Devils would need for the night, as the Panthers were only able to put up two of their own - one by Sean Bergenheim at 7:44 in the second period, and a power play goal by Kris Versteeg eight minutes later.

Both teams tightened up their defense in the third, but the game had already been decided by 3/4 through the first. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur picked up his 100th career playoff win in the process.

Part of Florida's problem was they paraded to the box, starting with a bad call at 10:18 in the first, when Shawn Matthias was given a high stick double minor. Replays showed that Matthias's stick wasn't even raised; the collision between the players resulted in the Devils player's own stick hitting himself in the face and drawing blood. The Panthers eventually settled down, but never really challenged Brodeur to the same level that the Devils were pushing Theodore.

The game was also physical, with nearly 100 hits between the two teams, split NJ 44 / FLA 49. Zubrus led the way for the Devils with 7 hits; for the Panthers, it was Bergenheim with 7 and Jason Garrison with 6.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday, and the Panthers will look to play a rock-solid 60 minutes against the Devils so that they can head to New Jersey with the series split 1-1.

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