On Friday night, the Devils squared off against the Florida Panthers in hopes of extending their four game win streak to five. On the other side the Cats of Florida would try to end a streak of their own, a four game losing streak. On this particular night, the Panthers just had the better team (that’s right, the Panthers were the better team)
As I had feared, if the Devils got off to a sluggish start, then the Panthers would capitalize and go ahead. That’s just what happened early on when Jordan Leopold beat Marty Brodeur with a laser over his glove side (3:53 into the first). When the Devils don’t dictate the flow of a game early on, they will let in the first goal and fall behind, it has happened a few times this season. Luckily, they are a great come from behind team, but they shouldn’t need the opposition to go ahead to get their fire burning.
In what can only be thought to be a deliberate strategic move (and in my opinion a good one) Panther coach Peter DeBoer dressed former Devil goalie Scott Clemmenson. It proved to be a good move as Clemmer came to show off his best to his former mates. He stopped all 9 of the Devils first period shots and took the Panthers into the first intermission with a one goal lead.
In the second period, the Panthers added to the lead with another quick goal by young and up and comer Michael Frolik on a tip in after a shot from the point by Keith Ballard (2:24 into the second). After that Florida just kept at it, they wanted this win more tonight I think and what better proof could you have then another goal just 1:05 later. On yet another tip in goal that went through Brodeurs five-hole, Steve Reinprect curled out of the corner and threw the puck in at Marty and Shawn Matthias would be there to tip it home.
At this point, I think the Devils were just thinking to themselves “Wow, this team is beating us? We have to change something around here”. They began to play with a little more urgency and started to do what they needed to do from the get go and that’s dictate the style of play which makes the Panthers play to the Devils strengths. In what would only be a matter of time, the Devils began their long journey back to the middle after red hot Brian Rolston netted his 11th of the year. This was a quintessential Brian Rolston goal, he skated into the Florida zone and just blasted one at Clemmeson’s glove side as the sheer speed of the shot alone hit off his glove and just kept going into the net (7:16 into the second).
Heading into the third period New Jersey trailed 3-1, but you just got the feeling they could get back into the game as they have in other games this year. Then, just seconds into the third period the Devils cut the lead to just one as Dean McAmmond got his first, and much deserved, first goal as a Devil after Dean was behind the net and threw it in front and it went off of Keith Ballard’s skate and deflected past Clemmenson through his five-hole. The Devils looked prime and ready to take back this game, when all of a sudden Michael Frolik would deliver his second of the night on a clean break-away goal on Martin Brodeur. Frolik snuck behind the defense of New Jersey and received a cross ice pass from Nathan Horton, deeked Marty, and he delivered the dagger to his blocker side (2:23 into the third).
New Jersey would go on to lose this game 4-2 and it was really all thanks to Frolik’s break-away goal, killing all the momentum Jersey had built up to that point. In retrospect, looking back on the game, if the Devils were going to lose this game, at least they made the efforts to come back and went down with fight. They should not have fallen behind so badly to a team that is beneath them, but this is after all the National Hockey League and any team can win on any given night. Also, congrats to Scott Clemmeson on getting another win at the Prudential Center, this time as the opposing goalie.
|1st Star||2nd Star||3rd Star|