The Florida Panthers are coming off a thrilling comeback victory and will try to keep the momentum tonight when they visit the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Florida lost the opener of this best-of-seven series, but has since posted consecutive wins to grab a two games to one edge. The third-seeded Panthers rallied for a win in Tuesday's Game 3 in New Jersey, coming back from a three- goal deficit to earn the 4-3 decision.
New Jersey scored three times on its first six shots on Tuesday, taking a 3-0 lead just 6:16 into the contest. However, the Panthers pulled Jose Theodore after the Devils' third goal and Scott Clemmensen stopped all 19 shots he faced to aid his club's comeback.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 3-2 by the end of the first period and New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur was pulled after Florida's Mike Weaver tied the game at 2:18 of the second period. Brian Campbell's power-play tally came 4:16 after Weaver's goal and proved to be the game-winner as Florida held on for the victory.
"The story of this entire series has been momentum swings," said Clemmensen, who recorded his first career postseason victory and also added an assist. "We've been three goals up, three goals down and it's only three games in. We've proven we can rally, they've proven to us they can come back."
Sean Bergenheim and Jason Garrison also scored during the greatest comeback in Panthers playoffs history.
Florida is in the postseason for the first time since 2000. The Panthers are holding their first lead in a playoff series since winning Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New York Rangers on April 17, 1997 -- a series the Panthers lost in five games.
The question for Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen heading into tonight's Game 4 is whether to give Clemmensen the start or go back to Theodore. Clemmensen, a former Devil, entered this series with a 4-0 record and 2.05 goals-against average in his regular-season career against the Devils and his performance on Tuesday once again showed how well he plays against the team that drafted him back in 1997.
Devils head coach Peter DeBoer, meanwhile, expects to use Brodeur as the starter tonight. The future Hall of Famer was yanked after giving up three goals on 12 shots in less than 23 minutes of action. Johan Hedberg took the loss after giving up Campbell's score. He made 13 saves in all.
"I think we definitely got too excited about that three-goal lead and let them back in the game because we were being a little undisciplined," said Brodeur.
Zach Parise, Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored in the game's first 6:16 for the Devils.
"I don't really have an explanation," said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. "I think we've gotta learn as a group how to play in that situation. We've been burned in two games taking penalties and they've taken full advantage."
The Panthers, who converted on all three of their power-play opportunities, improved to 6-for-10 on the man advantage in the series.
Florida will host Game 5 of this series on Saturday.
This is only the second playoff series between the Devils and Panthers, following New Jersey's sweep in the opening round of the 2000 playoffs.