ECQF Game 1 Recap: Marty gets Cat Scratch Fever with 100th playoff win

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One, New Jersey Devils vs Florida Panthers

(headline by @Bkrayer817)

Three stars of the game:

3rd star: Sean Bergenheim (Panthers – 1 goal)

2nd star: Patrik Elias (1 goal)

1st star: Dainius Zubrus (1 goal, 1 assist)

Hey, Devils playoff hockey is back!  It took a day longer than every other series to start, but it did start, and the Devils were ready off the opening faceoff.  They took it to the Florida Panthers, and silenced the home fans.  They also bombarded the Panthers’ net with pucks.  Early on, Jose Theodore kept bailing his team out, but the Devils’ relentless offensive pressure paid off 6:31 into the game.  The clever and skilled Patrik Elias moved right in on Theodore, but pulled the puck back and sniped it into the net, as Theodore was down and left the high net open.  The goal was Datsyuk-esque (the Red Wings’ star) and gave the Devils their first goal of the playoffs.  After that, it was a first period onslaught.

Shawn Matthias’ double-minor for high-sticking Andy Greene gave the Devils four minutes of puck possession.  The Panthers almost killed the double-minor off, but in the final seconds of the Devils’ power play, Martin Brodeur sent David Clarkson a perfect pass up the ice, and Clarkson found Dainius Zubrus, who beat Theodore.  Less than a minute later, and following another Florida turnover, Ryan Carter beat his former team and made it 3-0 Devils.

The 26 shots registered by the Devils in the first period was both the most shots by the Devils in a playoff period and most allowed by the Panthers in a playoff period.  Also, consider that the Devils averaged 27.5 shots per game in the regular season.  The first period was like a scrimmage, and it only needed one half of the rink, it seemed.  They were able to find the open shooting lanes, as Florida had no answer for the Devils’ balanced four lines.  The Devils outshot Florida, 26-9 in the period, but they knew the game wasn’t over at 3-0, as the Panthers proved all season that they can overcome deficits, especially against the Devils.

As you might imagine, Devils fans were quite pleased with the performance put forth by the Devils in the first period:

@benhas19voices: Best period of the year.

@Eugene_R: I hope this is the Devils we see throughout the rest of the Playoffs.

@Tiffom: Perfect start. Marty’s assist was a thing of beauty and everyone is contributing.

@Tristy: 1st period was good smart hockey! We need to keep it up!

@pathellander: An ideal hockey period. Possibly the best period we have ever played, going to hard to keep up that intensity.

@grover424When you had more shots in 1 period than many games this season, you know you had an UNREAL period to start the playoffs!!

It’s tough to follow up the first period the Devils had.  The Panthers certainly showed up to play in the second period, and the Devils tried to do a bit too much.  They started to play sloppy at times, and then Marek Zidlicky fired the puck out of play from the Devils’ zone.  Once the Panthers established momentum on their power play, they dominated the second period.  Martin Brodeur didn’t face nearly as many shots as Theodore did, but he did face many high-quality chances.  Midway through the period, they got on the board.  Sean Bergenheim, who had a tremendous playoff run with the Lightning last year, scored the first for Florida’s other team this year.  Anton Volchenkov tried to hit Bergenheim entering the Devils’ zone, but he missed him, and allowed Bergenheim to skate in on net.  They continued to press until they got their second goal, which came minutes later.

On another power play, the Panthers just managed to get one past Marty, as Devils killer Kris Versteeg struck again.  The second Florida goal was also a result of an Anton Volchenkov miscue.  He wasn’t prepared for Versteeg to take the puck to the net from the right of Brodeur, and Versteeg had plenty of time and space in front of Brodeur.  The game got “chippy” at that point, as Weiss and Elias ended up in the penalty box.  While skating 4-on-4, an area where the Panthers struggled all season, the Devils took another penalty, as Anton Volchenkov was penalized on a questionable call.  Still, the Devils survived the second period, and led 3-2 after two periods.  Florida outshot the Devils, 11-6 in the middle period.

The pulse of fans was a bit more nervous after the second period:

@RyanTatnell: We need to slow the game down and play to our strengths. We were overly aggressive in the 2nd in an attempt to maintain pressure but Florida regrouped and took advantage.

@HWL_Maxximus: Need some speed and more shots…we looked too slow that period.

The third period got off to a slow start.  It seemed that both teams were waiting for each other to start pressing, but for several minutes, there were no faceoffs.  Both teams just fought for the neutral zone.  Neither team registered a lot of shots early in the third period, either.  The Devils got their first golden opportunity midway through the period, as a bad pinch by a Florida defenseman gave the Devils a 2-on-1 rush.  Ilya Kovalchuk fed Zach Parise, but Theodore stopped Parise’s backhander in tight.  Their line played well in the third period as the Devils played survival in the final period of regulation.  Late in the period, Versteeg took a key penalty that gave the Devils a late power play and the momentum.  The Devils prevented Florida from setting up any offense after that and they took Game 1 by the final of 3-2.

For Martin Brodeur, it was his 100th career playoff victory.  The Devils played a solid road game, with the middle of the second period being the only blemish of the night.  They lead the series, 1-0.  Including the last six games of the regular season, the Devils have won seven straight games overall.  Despite the six-day layoff between the regular season and Game 1 of this series, the Devils came out strong in the first period with a historically good first period.  Overall, Florida was credited with 49 hits and 44 hits were counted from the Devils’ side.

The Devils also benefited from the depth they have offensively.  Their first chance came off the stick of Alexei Ponikarovsky early in the first period and all four lines produced chances during the game.  The game-winning goal came from fourth liner Ryan Carter.  Adam Henrique was the only Devils forward without at least one shot on goal.  Zach Parise led the way with six shots on Theodore, with Travis Zajac’s five close behind.  Marek Zidlicky led all Devils’ defensemen with four shots.  Despite Parise’s six Ilya Kovalchuk’s two shots, neither Parise nor Kovalchuk found the scoresheet in Game 1.  26 of the team’s 38 shots came in the first period.

The win in Game 1 guarantees the Devils at least a split in the opening two games in Miami before returning to New Jersey.  The Devils have a shot to go up 2-0 in the series on Sunday night.

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Posted on April 14, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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