The Florida Panthers will try to bounce back from a loss in their first playoff game in 12 years, as they host the New Jersey Devils tonight in Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The third-seeded Panthers are coming off their first-ever Southeast Division title, but the club did not fare well in its first postseason test since the spring of 2000. New Jersey scored three times in the first 14:56 of Game 1 and then held on for the 3-2 victory at BankAtlantic Center.
The last time the Panthers were in the playoffs they were swept in four games by the Devils in the opening round. All told, Florida has lost eight straight postseason games since beating the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals on April 17, 1997.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded Devils, who are back in the playoffs after a one- year hiatus, used a record-setting first period and 24 saves from Martin Brodeur to take Game 1.
Brodeur became just the second goaltender in NHL history to record 100 playoff wins, joining Patrick Roy (151). Brodeur gave up second-period goals to Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg, but then stopped all six shots he faced in the third for the sixth-seeded Devils.
"I've been fortunate to play on good teams," Brodeur said of his milestone. "It's not something I was looking at."
Patrik Elias, Ryan Carter and Dainius Zubrus scored for the Devils, who set a playoff franchise-record with 26 shots on goal in the first period.
"The pressure shifts to them," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We have to get greedy now and try to get two."
New Jersey, which will host Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday's respectively, had a 24-15-2 record as the road team this season. Florida was 21-9-11 as the host.
Jose Theodore made 35 stops for the Panthers, who were outshot 38-26 in Game 1.
"The next one is the biggest game and it goes from there," Theodore said. "You definitely don't want to go into their building down 2-0. We settled down in the second and it turned out to be too late. We have to be ready from the start."
Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen will likely be second-guessed for going with Theodore over Scott Clemmensen at the start of this series. Clemmensen, a former Devil, was 8-4-1 to close out the regular season, while Theodore hasn't won since March 17.
Clemmensen is also 4-0 with a 2.05 GAA in five career games against the Devils in the regular season, while Theodore is 8-14-3 with a 2.64 GAA in 25 tests against New Jersey.
The Panthers and Devils split four meetings during the 2011-12 regular season with Florida posting the superior 2-1-1 record thanks to a shootout loss. New Jersey wound up outscoring the Panthers by a slim 12-11 margin over the four games.