The Panthers, perhaps not used to taking the ice so early in the day, allowed a goal less than two minutes into the period. The Devils’ Steve Bernier scored his first NHL goal since a year ago today when playing for the Panthers by slipping it through Scott Clemmensen’s pads from about 10 feet out. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Dainus Zubrus earned the helpers on the play.
New Jersey was visibly more active than the Panthers, keeping the puck down in the Cat’s end for most of the first six minutes of the game, and taking the first eight shots of the contest. Keaton Ellerby would eventually take the first shot for Florida with 12 minutes remaining.
Florida wouldn’t get a second shot on goal until there were less than seven minutes left in the period. Mikael Samuelsson had a wide open look at Brodeur, but Martin turned the slapshot aside.
The Panthers were awarded the first man advantage of the evening at the 15-minute mark when Dainus Zubrus was called for hooking Brian Campbell. 16-seconds later, the Panthers pulled even when Sean Bergenheim redirected an Erik Gudbranson slapshot from the blue line for his 11th goal of the season. Marcel Goc also collected an assist on the play.
At the eight minute mark, Bryce Salvadore tried to clear the puck out, but was intercepted by Tomas Fleischmann. Flash fed Stephen Weiss to Kris Versteeg for a wide open chance on Brodeur to put the Cats on top, 2-1. The goal was Versteeg’s 21st of the season, leading the Panthers while coming within one goal of his career high, set two seasons ago while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.
With 12 minutes elapsed in the period, the Panthers would go on their second power play of the night. Of course, their first had only lasted 16 seconds before the Cats took advantage of their superior numbers. The Devils penalty kill on this occasion rose to the task, clearing the puck out four times and scaring the Panthers with their short-handed ability. The Devils lead the NHL with 13 short handed goals.
The Devils assaulted Clemmensen with under 30 seconds remaining to try and pull themselves even with Florida with a flurry of offensive zone activity, but the ex-Devil was up to the task.
Jason Garrison did not skate in the third period due to an undisclosed injury. The Cats are already two defensemen short, with injuries to Ed Jovanovski and Dmitry Kulikov out for an extended duration.
Sean Bergenheim was called for tripping with seven minutes left in regulation, although they could easily have called the opposition for cross-checking instead. It would be the first power play of the game for New Jersey.
On the ensuing power play, the Devils had a few chances against Clemmensen, but the Panthers were earning a few well timed puck clears.
With four minutes left, the Panthers earned a power play of their own when Kris Versteeg was tripped deep in the Devils zone by Mark Fayne.
The Cats kept the puck in the Devils zone for most of the two minutes, but the Devils pk proved effective, stopping two shots and clearing the puck three times.
New Jersey pulled Brodeur with 80 seconds left. Mikael Samuelsson scored his seventh of the season into an empty net with 24 seconds remaining to ice the Devils.
Although the Panthers were on the short side of every major statistical category, they were ahead where it counted, winning a tough road match in New Jersey, 3-1.
Hits: Devils, 21-7 (New Jersey crushed this category, possibly with the assistance of some home-book-cooking. David Clarkson led all skaters with five, while Tyson Strachan led the Panthers with a meager two.).
Blocked Shots: Devils, 11-9 (Andy Greene led all Devils by a wide margin with five. Brian Campbell had four for Florida).
Faceoffs: Panthers 29-23 (Stephen Weiss won just over half of his faceoffs, going 7-6, while Marcel Goc won 11 of his 27 chances. Patrik Elias had the best night in the circle, winning 11-of-16, Adam Henrique won 9-of-15, and Dainus Zubrus won just five of his 15 chances).
Shots on Goal: Devils, 28-19 (David Clarkson led all skaters with seven, while Kurtis Foster and Zach Parise each took four shots for the Devils. Florida was led by three each from Shawn Matthias and Mikael Samuelsson).
Score: Panthers 3, Devils 1
The book is closed on the regular season series between the two clubs, Florida took five points, going 2-1-1, while the Devils had four. Florida solidifies their hold on first in the Southeast. New Jersey is still third in the tough Atlantic Division, one point in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins.