Devils, Panthers drop the puck on Game 1
DEVILS (48-28-6) at PANTHERS (38-26-18)
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New Jersey 7-2-1; Florida 2-3-5
The teams split the four-game regular-season series. The Devils had won two in a row before the Panthers scored a 3-1 victory on Feb. 11 at Prudential Center. Kris Versteeg connected for the game-winner 7:43 into the second, giving the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Former Devil goalie Scott Clemmensen made 27 saves in the victory.
After missing all the postseason fun last year, the Devils will return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons behind first-year coach Peter DeBoer. The Panthers, meanwhile, have qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1999-2000 under their first-year coach, Kevin Dineen. DeBoer was coach of the Panthers for three straight seasons prior to being hired by New Jersey over the summer.
The Devils closed out the regular season on a season-high six-game winning streak, yielding just eight goals over that span. The team also established an NHL record for penalty-killing efficiency this season with an 89.6-percent success rate. The former mark of 89.25 was set by the 1999-2000 Dallas Stars. Additionally, the team connected for a League-leading 15 shorthanded goals. The Panthers allowed six shorthanded goals this season.
The Panthers finished the season with 94 points, the most since 1999-2000, when it finished with 98, while also clinching its first Division title. The club was atop the Southeast Division for 128 days this season, including the past 43. The Panthers will enter the playoffs with the most overtime/shootout losses (18) for a postseason team since the inclusion of the shootout in 2005.
Clemmensen is 3-0-1 in his past four starts with a save percentage of .962. … Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk
had five goals and three assists in the last eight regular-season games and led the team in scoring with 83 points in 2011-12.
For the Devils, forward Jacob Josefson
(fractured left wrist) and defenseman Henrik Tallinder
(blood clot) are out. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov
(illness) and right wing David Clarkson
(lower body) are probable. … Forwards Matt Bradley (concussion) and Jack Skille (shoulder) are out for the Panthers.
The next playoff win for New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur
will be the 100th of his career, and despite the fact he hasn't advanced past the first round since 2006-07, he still sports a 2.01 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 181 career playoff games. Brodeur surpassed 70,000 minutes played for his career (70,028), extending his own record, and has now played nearly 10,000 minutes more than Patrick Roy, who is second all-time with 60,235.
"We played them four times during the season and we've gone 82 games," DeBoer said. "Three-quarters of that team is different personnel than what I had there, so they really are [just] another team for now. I'll have a few more friends in the crowd in Florida from my time there, but other than that it has no special meaning."