Game in a Sentence:
After letting game three slip right through their fingers, the New Jersey Devils rebounded with their best game to date in the series as they earned the shutout win over the visiting Panthers, evening the series at two.
- The first period was typical of these teams as they were very evenly matched and seemed to be feeling each other out more than anything. It was a good sign to see the Devils bounce back from such a tough loss in game four and the Panthers didn’t appear to be poised for a letdown in the effort department.
- The Devils special teams were clearly better off the bat and you could tell from their first penalty kill in the opening period. Holding the Panthers to an 0/5 on the power play was huge for their win, as was a 50% power play efficiency.
- The hitting was about the same as it has been all series but the numbers have taken a serious dip since we got away from the 100+ hits being recorded in Florida. Only 43 official hits tonight in Florida yet no dip in physicality.
- New Jersey’s first goal on the power play came as the result of great spacing. They spread out and moved the puck much more effectively, they opened up the Florida kill and opened up a lane to get the shot through and put it past Clemmensen.
- From how I saw things unfold that Steve Bernier goal can’t be allowed by Clemmensen and Florida’s defence needs to make more of a commitment to playing the puck or blocking the shot. It was a good shot by Bernier and reminded me a lot of the Turris game winner last night, but I maintain Clemmensen could have played the angle better. The defense needs to give him a clear view of the puck.
- To that end, the Panthers definitely missed Jason Garrison. He is one of the most underrated defenders in hockey in my books.
- The Zajac tally was great work down low and patience shown by David Clarkson. Nice job to hold possession around the net and better vision to pick out the man coming off the bench.
- Erik Gudbranson showed some of his inexperience this game with a stupid, stupid boarding penalty early in the third. When your team is trying to overcome a three goal deficit you can’t be putting stacking that adversity against your own team.
- The Devils scored on the power play of course as they exposed the back side of the Panthers D once again, this time to Ilya Kovalchuk, who put a perfect shot past Clemmensen. He can’t be that easy to hit with a pass even if you are a man down. The passing lanes were not clogged up at all.
- The Panthers did have a few good rushes but ultimately couldn’t convert against Brodeur who appeared to be much more settled and confident in net. Marty was pretty vocal about his displeasure in being pulled from the last game and I have no doubt that gave him a bit more focus heading into this one. He wasn’t fully at fault for the Panthers coming back last game but he was a big reason why they didn’t score tonight. Also, Brodeur set the playoff shutout record which is cool. Add it to the list.
- Clemmensen was decent for the most part but I ultimately disagree with the decision to play him over Theodore. I think Theodore has been one of the best Panthers in this series. There is no way they would have even been in game one at all without him and he made several key saves in game two to get them the win. Clemmensen was fine, but I think Florida has to play their number one guy in game five.
- We saw tempers flare at the end of the game and that has been the hallmark of this series in a lot of ways. These teams have played with a lot of fight and spirit without venturing into the stupidity of other contests. Good on them for it.
My Three Stars:
1) Zach Parise
2) David Clarkson
3) Martin Brodeur