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Devils spoil Panthers' return to playoffs
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) - Back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, the Devils scored three goals during a record-setting first period, and Martin Brodeur made it stand up in a 3-2 win over Florida, as New Jersey spoiled the Panthers' return to the postseason.
Patrik Elias, Ryan Carter and Dainius Zubrus scored for the Devils, who set a playoff franchise-record with 26 shots on goal in the first period, when the team took a commanding 3-0 lead in the opener of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Brodeur made 24 saves and became the second goaltender in NHL history to record 100 playoff wins, joining Patrick Roy (151). Brodeur gave up second- period goals to Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg, but then stopped all six shots he faced in the third for the sixth-seeded Devils.
"I've been fortunate to play on good teams," Brodeur said of his milestone. "It's not something I was looking at."
Jose Theodore made 35 stops for the third-seeded Panthers, champions of the Southeast Division. The Panthers are in the postseason for the first time since 2000.
The best-of-seven series resumes Sunday night, again at BankAtlantic Center.
"The pressure shifts to them," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We have to get greedy now and try to get two."
In the playoffs for the 14th time in the last 15 years, the sixth-seeded Devils closed out the regular season with a season-high six straight wins. They swept the Panthers in their only other playoff meeting, in the 2000 conference quarterfinals.
Elias was relentless early on. Playing on his 36th birthday, the veteran was denied on a breakaway by Theodore three minutes into the game.
The Devils kept up the offensive pressure, peppering the Florida netminder with shots. Elias then scored 6:31 into the contest with a superb individual effort, holding the puck at the bottom of the right circle and faking a backhand attempt. That got Theodore to commit low, and then Elias roofed the disc over the fallen goaltender from a sharp angle.
Zubrus and Carter scored 45 seconds apart later in the frame.
The Devils first took advantage of a high-sticking double-minor to Shawn Matthias. David Clarkson passed the puck from the top of the right circle a small distance to Zubrus in the same circle, and his snap shot beat Theodore low to the blocker side at with 5:49 left in the period.
Florida then turned the puck over in its own zone, and Carter took advantage by sending a right circle shot low into the left side of the net.
The Devils had an astounding 12 shots on the power play in the first period. The Panthers also were shorthanded two minutes when Tomas Fleischmann was sent off for a cross-check.
Bergenheim's goal came 7:44 into the second on a nice individual effort. He skated through the right circle and veered in front to get the puck by Brodeur.
A costly tripping penalty on Stephen Gionta turned into Versteeg making it a 3-2 contest with 4:18 left in the second. Versteeg got the puck in front of the crease, and while being pushed from behind by a pair of defenders, pushed the disc between the pads of Brodeur.
New Jersey had just six shots in the second and was clearly reeling late in the period.
"When we started the second period we were more composed," Theodore said. "We played our style. I had to make a couple of key saves in the third to give the team a chance."
Brodeur was equal to the task in the third, and New Jersey was awarded a power play with 4:25 left following a Versteeg hooking penalty.
The Panthers pulled Theodore for an extra attacker with just over a minute left, but were unable to generate a decent scoring opportunity in the closing time.
The previous record for most shots in a playoff period by the Devils was 20 in the second against the Rangers, on May 11, 1997, a 2-1 New Jersey loss in the Eastern Conference semifinal series-ending Game 5...New Jersey was 1-for-6 on the power play...Brodeur picked up an assist on the Zubrus goal...Florida hasn't won a postseason game since April 17, 1997 in Game 1 of the first round against the Rangers.
04/13 23:44:15 ET