The teams took the ice in front of an announced crowd of 19,248. The Cats won the opening faceoff, and 11 seconds later would get their first power play opportunity of the night when Andy Greene tripped Marcel Goc behind the Devils net. Just 12 seconds later, Stephen Weiss would score his first career playoff goal, flipping the puck over Martin Brodeur’s shoulder with assists from Kris Versteeg and Mikael Samuelsson.
At the seven minute mark, Zach Parise put a move on Jose Theodore, and Ilya Kovalchuk gathered up the rebound and slid it by him, harmlessly clanking off the post. In killing the play, Dmitry Kulikov inadvertently slapped the puck over the glass for a two minute delay of game penalty. The Devil’s power play proved fruitless, as Florida killed it very effectively, clearing the puck four times, and getting a chance against Brodeur. John Madden held the puck by himself in the Devil’s zone for almost ten seconds.
The Panthers went the last 16 minutes without a shot on goal. The teams had combined for a total of seven shots on goal through the first 16 minutes of the game in what is turning out to be a very physical matchup.
With 30 seconds left in the period, the Devils went two men down when David Clarkson was called for charging Jason Garrison and Alexei Ponikarovsky was called for high-sticking. The two man advantage will be in effect for the first 1:43 of the second period.
The period opened with the Panthers on a two man advantage for 1:43. The Cats won the opening faceoff, and got the puck into the New Jersey zone immediately. After cycling the puck for a while, Jason Garrison got a good looking one timer, right into Brodeur’s chest. Garrison got another shot a moment later which Brodeur again saved, but Weiss picked up the rebound and stuck it home for his second goal of the night. Garrison and Marcel Goc would be credited with the assists on the play.
The Devils would get a chance with a man advantage at the two minute mark when Mikael Samuelsson hooked Zach Parise. The Panthers were again up to the task allowing only one shot on goal. Tomas Kopecky got a good looking shorthanded opportunity with a breakaway against Brodeur.
The Panthers would go back on the power play when Ryan Carter hooked Mike Weaver. This time, the Devils record setting penalty kill was effective.
Kovalchuk found Parise across the ice right in front of Theodore at the 11 minute mark for what should have been a slam dunk goal, but Theo made a terrific sliding stick save to preserve the shutout.
The Panthers went up 3-0 with five minutes remaining in the period when Marcel Goc put home a Garrison rebound between Brodeur’s pads. Brian Campbell and Sean Bergenheim earned assists on the play.
As the third period opened, the Devils appeared to be skating with fresh desperation. They broke the scoreboard seal early, beating Theodore on their first shot of the period, just one minute into play by Travis Zajac. Assists were earned on the score by Andy Greene and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored for the Devils again just one minute later, pulling the Devils within one on a cross-ice feed in front of Jose Theodore from Adam Henrique.
The Devils kept the puck in the Panthers zone for just over a full minute with 12 minutes remaining. The Devils reeled off several shots in the general direction of the goal before the Panthers finally cleared the puck.
The Panthers woke up after that, and the teams traded chances for most of the period.
With 1:15 remaining, the Devils pulled Brodeur for a sixth skater as the Devils mounted a final furious assault on Theodore. The Panthers cleared the puck several times, and committed an icing penalty with 7.6 seconds remaining in the game. After calling a timeout, the Panthers cleared the zone and Tomas Fleischmann iced the game into an empty net, making the final score 4-2.
Hits: Devils 52-50 (Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bryce Salvador had six each for New Jersey, while Ed Jovanovski led all skaters with seven).
Blocked Shots: Panthers 18-12 (Ed Jovanovski and Shawn Matthias each had three for the Panthers, three skaters tied for the New Jersey lead with two each).
Faceoffs: Panthers 29-24 (Marcel Goc won 10-of-15 to lead Florida, while John Madden pitched in with an 8-for-14 effort. Travis Zajac won 13-of-17 for the Devils).
Shots on Goal: Devils 25-23 (Zach Parise led all skaters with six, Kris Versteeg led the Panthers with four).
Score: Panthers 4, Devils 2