Fresh off their first postseason win in 15 years, the Florida Panthers will try to keep the momentum in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals when they visit the New Jersey Devils for tonight's Game 3 at Prudential Center.
The third-seeded Panthers are in the postseason for the first time since 2000 after winning the franchise's first-ever Southeast Division title. Florida's previous trip to the playoffs 12 years ago resulted in a sweep at the hands of the Devils, but the Panthers ended an eight-game postseason losing streak with a 4-2 victory in Sunday's Game 2.
Stephen Weiss netted a pair of power-play goals to lead the Panthers to Sunday's victory, which evened this series at one win apiece. It was Florida's first victory in the postseason since April 17, 1997 against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals. New York went on to win that set in five games.
"It's nice to get the monkey off your back," Weiss said about the Panthers' victory.
Weiss' tallies were the first two playoff goals of his 10-year career. The former first-round pick by Florida in the 2001 draft is in the playoffs for the first time as an NHLer.
Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann also lit the lamp for the Panthers, while Jose Theodore made 23 saves for the win.
Florida hasn't won a road playoff game since it defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the 1996 Eastern Conference finals. The Panthers were 17-17-7 as the guest during the 2011-12 regular season.
The Devils, meanwhile, will try to take control of this series in Newark, where Thursday's Game 4 will also take place. New Jersey was 24-13-4 at the Prudential Center this season.
Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in Sunday's loss for New Jersey, which had its seven-game win streak -- including the final six games of the regular season -- snapped.
Martin Brodeur, who won the 100th postseason game of his career in the series opener, stopped 20-of-23 shots in defeat, falling to 5-1 in his career against the Panthers in the playoffs..
"I think when we play the way we are capable of playing we're a better team than them," said Zajac. "We have just got to stick to our game and do what makes us successful."
New Jersey did a nice job of getting back into Sunday's game, as they entered the third period trailing 3-0, but got on the board just 48 seconds into the frame on Zajac's goal. Kovalchuk tallied just 1:14 later to cut the deficit to 3-2, but the score would stay that way until Fleischmann notched an empty- netter with less than a second to play.
"We didn't panic when they scored two quick goals. That's playoff hockey right there and you have got to stick with it and have confidence," said Theodore.
This is only the second playoff series between the Devils and Panthers, following New Jersey's sweep in 2000.