Here we are! Friday has arrived! As long as this week has seemed Devils fans, the day has come, the puck has been dropped in New Jersey's "Quest For 4". The early goings of this game, WOW! The Devils were WIDE AWAKE. You would have never guessed that this team's last game was nearly a week ago. After wrapping up the season as the hottest team heading into the playoffs, winning the teams last 6 games, Jersey was in locked in and ready to continue their success against Florida. The last time these two teams met in the post season was back in 2000 where New Jersey swept the Panthers in 4 straight games in the opening round of the playoffs, the first team beat on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals in which the Devils won their 2nd Championship in franchise history.
The ice was tilted here in the opening period, if you couldnt tell by the 1st period box score. The Devils outshot Florida 26-9 in the first 20 minutes of play, scoring three times! The Panthers showed up early, and briefly, and then not again until the team hit the ice for the start of the 2nd period. The score sheet got its first bit of ink on it when the birthday boy, Patrik Elias weaved magic in and out of numerous defensemen, practically unlacing Jose Theodore and firing a shot high over the sprawled out goaltender and into the net! NEW JERSEY GOAL! Elias' goal, scored on his 36th birthday gave the Devils the lead a mere six and a half minutes into the period. Dainius Zubrus got the lone assist on the goal. Patty's goal would open the flood gates. The Devils' pressure was on and the pedal was to the metal! New Jersey would put another goal on the board while on the man advantage when Florida's Shawn Matthias got called for a double minor hi stick on Andy Greene. The Devils scored AGAIN, increasing the lead to 2 on a goal by Zubrus. Zubbie's goal was set up by David Clarkson and the goalie, Marty Brodeur! When it seemed like the Devils' scoring brigade was all said and done, ANOTHER goal was scored! Ryan Carter punched a goal past the phenominal Jose Theodore to put the Dev's up 3-0. The Devils would eventually outshoot the Cats 26-9 through 20 minutes of play, scoring 3 times allowing no goals.
After seeing how prolific the scoring was in the first period, I would have expected more of the same from the Dev's in this period, what we got, was a nailbitter. The Devils would sacrafice two goals to the Panthers in the middle period. Goals by Florida were recorded by Sean Bergenheim at 7:44 of the second period assisted by Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson to bring the Panthers to within two of the 6th seeded New Jersey Devils. With just under 5 minutes left, the Devils would head back on the penalty kill in the period (one of 4 New Jersey penalties in the period), a penalty that would be deactivated 19 seconds later when Kris Versteeg squeezed one through the pads of Marty Brodeur for the 2nd goal of the night for the Panthers. Versteeg's powerplay goal, his 6th goal against NJ this year, was set up due in part to a beautiful passing play initiated by linemate Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Fleischmann. Along with the 2 goals, 7 total penalties would be assessed in the second period, 4 to New Jersey, 3 to Florida. The Panthers would kill both (aside from one off-setting minor), while scoring on one of 3. Florida's powerplay unit went 1/3 on the evening. As for New Jersey, the Devils would'nt be as productive, as they'd only score once on six opportunities. Now down by one goal, it would appear as though the famous words of The Maven, Stan Fischler could potentially come true "A three goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey.".
In a playoff game, its very rare to see a dull period. The third period in this one sure stood out as one of the more, uneventful periods. Shots were 6 a piece in the closing 20 resulting in no goals on either side of the ice, eventually leading to a Devils game one victory. A few fast breaks and whistle-less minutes of play would highlight the period aside from the lone penalty called on Versteeg at 15:35 for hooking, a penalty killed by the Cats. The Panthers couldnt manage to materalize on their bit of momentum gained in the 2nd period as it'd be Marty Brodeur standing tall and staving off 24 Florida shots on the night. THE DEVILS WIN! Friday the 13th sure as hell didn't seem all that UNLUCKY for Jersey's team. 3-2 the final in Sunrise!
As most of you had predicted, the Devils took Game 1 in Sunrise, FL this evening by the final score of 3-2. In wake of the victory, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who finished the night with 24 saves and an assist, captured his 100th career playoff victory, 2nd on the all-time list behind Patrick Roy with 151. Elias scored tonight, being the first marker of the game, on his 36th birthday. The next game between the 3rd seed and 6th seed will be played Sunday evening at 7:30 from the BankAtlantic Center before New Jersey returns home for games 3 and 4, Tuesday the 17th and Thursday the 19th.
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