Newark, N.J. - The New Jersey Devils played their first game against the Florida Panthers since knocking them out of the first round of last years playoffs. The series left an apparent bad taste in the mouths of the Panthers players.
The Devils beat the Panthers, but the game took a toll on the team. There were three injured Devils in the game: Ilya Kovalchuk took a spill into the boards, Tim Sestito was cross-checked into the boards halfway through the third period, and Bryce Salvador was brought down at the end of the game and suffered a knee injury. Salvador was reported to be fine as he was wearing a brace, without the brace it would have been serious. The injuries to Kovalchuk and Sestito were less than a minute apart from one another.
However, the Devils and Martin Brodeur fended off the Panthers. The win gives Brodeur his 666th career NHL win and 10th on the year.
The game started out slow for both teams, the Devils only had two shots in the first period, one of which hit off of the post. The Panthers had plenty of scoring chances, but Brodeur made some great saves to keep the game scoreless.
Only 1:24 into the second period, the Devils broke through with a goal from Patrik Elias. Elias received the puck on a 2-on-1 from Travis Zajac and poked it through the five-hole of former Devil, Scott Clemmensen.
Less than ten minutes later, David Clarkson extended the lead to two when he followed his shot that was being bobbled by Clemmensen. Clarkson hit it free from Clemmensen and easily put it in the net. The goal was a team leading 12th goal for Clarkson.
Brodeur continued to keep the Panthers at bay as he stopped great opportunities, including one from Jonathan Huberdeau who was robbed on his backhand try in the slot. Although, Brodeur made a mistake when he misplayed a puck that allowed Tomas Fleischmann to center it to Peter Mueller who tapped it into the vacant net with 9.8 seconds remaining in the second.
The game then got a little feisty in the third period. Panthers defenseman Colby Robak took a major cross-checking penalty when he pushed Sestito into the boards. The hit left Sestito writhing in pain while a scrum took place along side of him. The hit should get the attention of the league and may lead to supplemental discipline.
The Devils failed to score on the five minute power play. Boo’s rained down from the rafters as the Panthers were outshooting the Devils during a portion of the penalty.
The win gives the Devils their second straight and distanced themselves from the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers in the standings.
The Devils take on the Ottawa Senators on Monday at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The Senators beat the Devils in a shootout the last time the two teams met.
Attendance – 17,625 (sellout)
1st Star – Travis Zajac (2 assists, plus-2 rating)
2nd Star – Martin Brodeur (17 saves, 1 goal allowed, .944 save percentage)
3rd Star – David Clarkson (1 goal, plus-2 rating, 4 shots)