Indeed the Devils were treated to the wrath of hell tonight after the ice was flooded with rats. Coming into this Game 5 matchup of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Florida Panthers, the New Jersey Devils obviously had the momentum after a 4-0 win in Game 4 back at home. Unfortunately, not every game can be played in the Prudential Center so the Panthers looked for a strong outing by hosting Game 5. You could say that the result was a role reversal cut by one goal. Nonetheless, Florida ruled the night and now currently has this series in their hideous paws.
Now I understand why NBC rarely likes to put the Devils on their schedule (same applies for the Panthers). People like to see great action from the beginning and they get that action (to some extent) from teams like the US-based Original 6 teams. New Jersey and Florida play relatively-boring hockey as it is and this first period wasn’t any different. Marty Brodeur was obviously the starter but the Panthers reverted back to Jose Theodore (I expected Scott Clemmensen). This period had a balanced opening and continued that way…without much action. However, Marty flat out ROBBED Sean Bergenheim at the 13:30 point! Where was the defense though (still a mystery)? I wasn’t quite sure what happened to Adam Henrique because he missed a couple of shifts after going to the locker room (equipment problem I assume). Nonetheless, he still came back out strong. At the 10:55 point, Ed Jovanovski took a slashing penalty, giving the Devils their first power play of the night. The good thing was that we saw some chances. Knowing the Devils power play by now though, you shouldn’t expect much no matter how much you internally pray for a goal. There was none and the Panthers killed it off. Between the 7:18 point to the 5:15 point, the Devils’ 1st and 3rd lines were really controlling play. Marty made some nice stops after but I noticed Stephen Gionta leaving the ice limping. His presence overall tonight was to minute for me to notice if he returned or not. Florida created a chance with 2:30 left to play from the stick of ex-Devil John Madden but Marty was there to keep this a scoreless game. Shots-on-goal after one were 11 all.
The first few minutes or so were pretty good for the most part. Henrique’s line and Patrik Elias’ line were really dominating play. Marty even made a key stop on Bergenheim again at the 16:48 point but that’s when the Devils misfortunes began. Just 12 seconds after that save on Bergenheim, Marek Zidlicky (who I often refer to as Bum on my tweets) took an interference penalty which gave Florida a power play. It only took them 30 seconds to convert! Kris Versteeg, from a tough angle, ripped his 2nd of the playoffs past Marty and give the Panthers a 1-0 edge. Versteeg’s goal was assisted by Stephen Weiss and Brian Campbell (looks like all 3 of them need haircuts). I’m sure very Devils fan was wondering why their PK went from best in the NHL to retrospectively last – and trust me my thoughts weren’t any different. A few minutes after the goal, Steve Bernier ripped a shot which probably could’ve gone in but Theodore was a complete wall and froze that shot. Devils Fans started to turn against the refs for the millionth time in this series when captain Zach Parise was called for a hold. No clue how or why this was possible because I was so sure Panther defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (who was tangled up with Parise) deserved the penalty. Thankfully, the Devils PK held its ground and didn’t let up a goal. The PK would come back to work when Dainius Zubrus took a double minor with 6:37 to go in the 2nd. 30 seconds into it, Florida forward Tomas Fleischmann was tripped by Marty and as a result, knocked the netting off, which caused Fleischmann to leave with an injury. He soon came back and generated a great chance for the Panthers, but the Devils stayed strong and killed off the elongated penalty. That last chance by Fleischmann was the only true chance Florida got in that 4 minute power play so kudos to the Devils PK (Florida even called a timeout during that). With 2 minutes to go, Marco Sturm took a holding penalty, which gave New Jersey a power play for the rest of the period. Henrique was called for a mysterious high stick with 51 seconds left, negating the Devils power play, and forcing some 4-on-4. Shots-on-goal were 23-17 in favor of Florida.
The Panthers started this period on the power play, which forced Marty to make some early saves. It was simple hockey but Devils fans, our complaints towards officiating needs to be recognized in some way! Never in these playoffs have I seen a penalty being called after an icing! Ryan Carter, at the 16:53 point, was called for boarding after a Panther had touched the puck. Really speaking though, that Panther had just lost his edge and Carter was just finishing his check! How do you call that a penalty?! The Florida player was barely hurt. In retaliation, Bernier and Tomas Kopecky were sent to the box for offsetting roughing minors. Around the midway point, the Devils generated numerous chances but I wasn’t so sure that their push for the equalizer was greater than Florida’s push for a 2 goal lead. At the 7:40 point, a strong slapper by Bergenheim (pretty unlucky tonight) was stopped by Brodeur, hoping that his team could tie it because he can’t win the game for the Devils alone. Coach Pete DeBoer even mixed up and reset the lines but that didn’t seem to have much effect. All was still positive…until the blunder. I once stated in my article where the Devils fell in Pittsburgh 5-2 that my father doesn’t approve of Marty playing the puck behind the net. He thinks of the unthinkable (somewhat…) and that happened just about a minute after Marty made the stop on Bergenheim. He left his post and tried to poke the puck with Bryce Salvador also trying to get it. Instead he completely FAILED and Versteeg backhanded a pass to an open Scottie Upshall, who had no problem putting the puck in the open net. In the playoffs, THAT IS UNNACEPTABLE! Upshall’s 1st of the playoffs was assisted by Versteeg and Shawn Matthias. Devils fans have every right to be mad at Marty for essentially costing the game right there. Even though he made some vital saves with 4 minutes go, the score was still 2-0 Florida. Erik Gudbranson took a high sticking call with 2:08 to go and the Devils called their timeout, hoping for a miracle. Soon Marty was pulled and New Jersey had a 6-on-4. On this fortuitous opportunity, the Devils made squat out of it. Ilya Kovalchuk pretty much gave the puck away to Kopecky, who had the empty net in front of him. Kovy didn’t let Kopecky score by hooking him with his stick. In those situations, it’s an automatic goal and thus, Florida went up 3-0. That’s how the game ended with the rats reigning down and now, the Panther have the Devils on the brink of elimination. Shots on goal were 33-30 in favor of Florida. Best wishes to our beloved New Jersey Devils in Game 6!
- Jose Theodore
- Kris Versteeg
- Shawn Matthias
Next Game: Game 6: Panthers vs. Devils from the Prudential Center 4/24 (time still to be determined). This game is a MUST WIN if the Devils still want to be in this race.
We saw new refs and linesmen who never took part in a single game of this matchup. The linesmen, Brian Murphy and Jonny Murray, were pretty fair. The referees, Chris Lee and Wes McCauley, disappointed Devils fans again. I think it’s fair to say we won’t get the support from officiating no matter how far the Devils go. Jason Garrison was out for the 2nd straight game and Tyson Strachan replaced him. Due to that absence, the Devils went 5/6 on the PK tonight but that one goal allowed (Versteeg’s) ended up being the game winner. Gee, did anyone notice that Janssen, Boulton, and LARSSON were scratches again? Maybe it’s time to free Larsson and possibly, oh I don’t know, bench Volchenkov?! Just a thought… The favored Devils are down 3-2 but shockingly so are the other Eastern favorites (Senators lead the Rangers 3-2, Capitals lead the Bruins 3-2, and the Flyers lead the Penguins 3-2).
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