D”rats”! New Jersey Drops Game 2!

Panthers Rats Game 2

Game 2 of the Playoffs between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers took place today (April 15th), and the Devils looked to add on their series lead. In game 1, New Jersey held on to win and they looked to carry out the momentum tonight. 2/3 of Game 2 was (depending on respective opinion) either boring or disappointing. For me it was like watching a chess match and crying at the same time. Devils fans would be entertained to an attempted miracle from the Devils in the 3rd but in the end, New Jersey got thrown into Florida’s litter box.

I thought we would be seeing ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen between the pipes for the Florida Panthers. Instead, the Panthers boldly chose Jose Theodore to start once more against Marty Brodeur, who beat Theodore in Game 1 to earn his 100th playoff victory. Right from the opening faceoff, I cringed. Just 11 seconds into the match, Andy Greene took a tripping penalty to give Florida a power play. It only took the Panthers 12 seconds to convert. Stephen Weiss scored his first ever playoff goal with the assists going to Mikael Samuelsson and Kris Versteeg. There weren’t many chances, to be honest, generated by either team after that. At the 12:22 point, Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov took a delay-of-game penalty which gave the Devils a power play opportunity and the chance to tie the game. Fans have stressed that the power play needs to get better. Unfortunately, they failed to convert. Florida really stepped up their defensive play compared to their performance in Game 1. Both teams went 9 minutes without a shot, which is sad because that’s not playoff hockey. The referees from Game 1 (they were clearly bad ones) were replaced by new ones, however, I think these guys were worse. With 17 seconds to go, Alex Ponikarovsky cross-checked Panther defenseman Erik Gudbranson. I agreed with that call but the call after that just infuriated me. David Clarkson was called for charging in on Gudbranson. In all honesty, it was a terrible call which gave Florida a 5-on-3 power play for a full 2 minutes. Time ran out though and the teams skated back into the locker rooms with Florida having the 1 goal edge. Shots-on-goal were just 4-3, in favor of NJ (too boring).

Florida was given the gift of starting with a 5-on-3. If you had to give props to the Panthers for one thing up to this point, it was that they converted on any opportunity they got. They, meaning Weiss, who put in his 2nd goal of the game with the assists coming from Marcel Goc and Jason Garrison at the 18:48 point. The Devils found themselves in a 2-0 hole and things were simply not going their way, even when the opportunity came. At the 17:53 point, the Devils went back on the power play when Samuelsson took a hooking penalty, but left the ice for some unknown reason (the penalty was served by Shawn Matthias). There were a couple of chances, but ultimately, no goals. A real great chance presented itself for the Devils near the 12 minute mark. Steve Bernier had a breakaway but instead of trying to move or even shoot the puck, he looked like as if he backhanded a pass to Theodore. Branching off that play, another bad call from the ref sent Ryan Carter to the penalty box, for hooking. This power play was successfully killed off by NJ. Captain Zach Parise had a great chance to cut the lead in half with a one timer from the left circle. Unfortunately, Theodore made the stop. It really hurts deep down when Devils fans know their team looks to fight back and then slightest bit of bad luck falls upon them. This bad luck came from a shot from Goc, which Marty seemed to have. Somehow, the puck trickled in behind him and now the Devils knew they had a big mountain to climb. Goc’s 1st goal of the playoffs came at the 5:21 point with the assists going to Brian Campbell and Sean Bergenheim. There was some pressure from New Jersey with just over a minute to go but in the end, the Panthers were comfortably leading 3-0 after two periods of play. Shots-on-goal were 14-13 in favor of Florida this time. I used to think the referees this season were for the most part fantastic but after the playoffs started, their performance arguably turned upside down.

Now the Devils came into the 3rd without a goal in 80 minutes of play. In an attempt to get things going, Coach DeBoer put Adam Henrique between Kovalchuk and Parise. Surprisingly- it worked! In the opening minute of the 3rd, Travis Zajac wristed the puck past Theodore and the Devils had life again! Zajac’s 1st of the playoffs was assisted by Greene and Ponikarovsky. They didn’t stop there. Exactly 1:14 later, Kovalchuk deflected a pass from Henrique and that found its way past Theodore as well! To be honest, I love miracles and now the Devils were on the hunt for one. Kovalchuk’s 1st goal (on his birthday!) of the playoffs was solely assisted by Henrique. Offensive forays were controlled by the Devils from this point on. There were an abundance of chances that could’ve done more than just tied the game. Florida’s best opportunity came near the 6-minute mark. Scottie Upshall was left all alone (where was the defense?) but his tip from a pass from fellow teammate Garrison was stopped by Marty. New Jersey pulled Brodeur around the 1 minute mark in search of that tying goal. They got several chances but ultimately, none would go in the net. Panther forward Tomas Fleischmann scored the empty netter (unassisted) just as time expired and the Panthers won the game 4-2. Soon, the rats started to flood the ice and the Devils made sure they got out of there quickly. The series is tied at 1 and the teams will play games 3 and 4 in Newark. Let’s hope for the best for the Devils. Shots-on-goal were 25-23 in favor of NJ.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Devils2-4  Stanley Cup Playoffs Panthers

Three Stars:

  1. Stephen Weiss
  2. Marcel Goc
  3. Ilya Kovalchuk

Next Game: Game 3 vs. Florida at The Rock (Tuesday, April 17th, 2012)

Key Notes:

First off, all of us here at Running With the Devils wish Ilya Kovalchuk and Cam Janssen a happy birthday (29 years and 28 years respectively)! “Birthdaychuck” got the Devils’ second goal but Janssen, along with Eric Boulton and Adam Larsson (who warmed up) were healthy scratches. New Jersey didn’t have a great night on the PK either. They were 1/3. How can you blame em though when the officiating isn’t doing a fair job? The Florida Panthers won their first playoff game since April 17th, 1997 (against the Rangers) so it’s fair to let the fans have their moment (while it lasts) and throw those infamous rats on the ice. Tonight’s game also featured 102 hits – my goodness! That’s the most in any playoff game so far. Even that brutally physical game played earlier in Philadelphia between the Flyers and Penguins didn’t have as many hits as tonight!

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Raj Vaidya

About Raj Vaidya

Computer Science major at Rutgers University. I am a die-hard Patriots fan living in the Princeton, NJ area and have been writing for Foxboro Blog since 2012.