Embarrassing. Embarrassing is one of the many adjectives that come to mind when pondering tonight’s loss. New Jersey fell in the game, 4-3, and in the series, 2-1. After allowing the Panthers to erase a three-goal deficit, the Devils were unable to score on former goaltender Scott Clemmensen. The Devils will look to turn things around on Thursday evening in Game Four.
The Devils started off in brilliant fashion, scoring three times in just over six minutes. Zach Parise scored his first goal of the series just 33 seconds into the game to put New Jersey ahead 1-0. Stephen Gionta followed up with his first career playoff goal 3:27 into the opening period. The crowd was energetic and seemed to provide the Devils with a huge boost. Patrik Elias scored his second goal of the series 6:16 into the first; Jose Theodore was pulled in favor of Scott Clemmensen as the Panthers attempted a comeback. At the 16:11 mark, Sean Bergenheim scored for the Panthers to cut the Devils’ lead to 3-1. With eight seconds to go in the first, the Panthers would cut the lead to 3-2 on Jason Garrison’s first goal of the season. Both Panthers goals came on the power play. However, the Devils skated into the locker room with the one-goal lead.
Devils fans, you might want to skip over this section of the recap. It was around the beginning of the second period that I began throwing my hat on the floor and yelling vulgarities at the television. Just 2:18 into the middle period, Mike Weaver tied the game at 3 with his first goal of the series. Subsequently, Devils’ Head Coach Peter DeBoer pulled Martin Brodeur from the cage and turned things over to back-up Johan Hedberg. Brian Campbell scored Florida’s third power play goal of the night at the 6:34 mark to give the Panthers the lead. Sloppy play doomed the Devils for the rest of the period as they were unable to get the equalizer. Both teams headed off to the locker room for the second intermission as the Devils trailed 4-3.
The Devils limited Florida to six shots on goal in the final twenty minutes of the hockey game. Unfortunately, the Devils themselves were held to nine and were unable to tie the game. Although New Jersey had several key opportunities, Clemmensen stepped up big for the Panthers. Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrik Elias all had marvelous chances to tie the game but fell just short. Kovalchuk’s body language in the third period was nothing short of terrible. Kovy seemed frustrated and let his poor performance affect his effort for the remainder of the game. On several occassions, the Devils turned the puck over and were lazy when chasing after a loose puck.
The Devils are back at it in Game Four of this best-of-seven series on Thursday night (7 PM EST, Prudential Center). New Jersey really needs to step it up and win. If the Devils fall behind in the series 3-1, I really don’t see them advancing to the next round, especially with Game Five set to be played in Florida. One thing is for sure, if the Devils are going to win this series, Game Six will have to be played. Parise, Kovalchuk, and Elias really need to step it up and start leading. Martin Brodeur also needs to stop hiding behind the excuse of a young defense. He has playoff experience and needs to show it. If there’s ever a time for clutch play, it’s now.
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