Tuesday night’s Game 6 between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers probably made you angry, frustrated, scared, and, most of all, scream like a teenage girl. As the first period wrapped up and Devils led in shots 13-6, it was not new news. If there was anything the Devils and Panthers have learned from the previous five games played so far, it’s the fact that no lead is safe.
The Devils started their game with some great pressure and had help from future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur to make sure it stayed 1-0 going into the second period. From there, it got interesting.
After the Devils shutout loss in Game 5 worried everyone wearing red and black, the reality set in of a first round exit again. Luckily for the Devils, they are getting the extra help where they needed it: from the 4th line.
Steve Bernier’s late 1st period goal had everyone in the arena feeling great as 40 minutes remained from either a Game 7, or a 9am tee time. I went back to articles, posts, and recaps on Game 4 and didn’t understand why our 4th line wasn’t getting more playing after some impressive skating and work ethic.
When your 1st line reads stud, stud, stud, ice time doesn’t become readily available. But the best breath of fresh air I’ve had so far was seeing what a difference Carter, Bernier, and Gionta have been making in this series. What was good got better. Devils came out looking to finish what they started.
Good fore checking from our squad led to added pressure in the offensive zone and caused Florida to give us a man advantage on Tomas Kopecky’s high sticking call. From there, the future started to glow. Added pressure from Zach Parise led to pressure in Florida’s zone with both Zajac and Sykora feeding Kovalchuck’s power play goal. But a good thing turned bad.
Within a few minutes after the Devils went up 2-0, the Devil killer Kris Versteeg buried one from down low and Sean Bergenheim 6 minutes later makes it a 2-2 game before the second period wrapped up. From what I saw, poor positioning and sloppy play forced the Panthers to make it uncomfortable for everyone in the house that night. Just watching the Devils get caught flat footed and follow the puck down low caused coverage to cease for the Panthers and allow them a chance to send the home the Devils early. Next to below average defense in that period, the ugliest part of the game had to be the Devils power play.
Only converting 1 of 4 chances, the Devils just couldn’t get anything going. At one point in the game, the Devils had a great chance to go up again with a 5 on 3 but passes were sloppy, players couldn’t corral the puck when they needed to, and Florida played overall very aggressive on the kill and even put pressure on the Devils in their own end, making it a hair pulling, knee smacking experience for all who paid the price of admission.
Nevertheless, Devils fans got what they wanted and got it in style. The first overtime of this series couldn’t have been scripted any better. At home, a sold out Prudential Center, with the season on the line and Zajac buries it and brings back the running man for the OT celebration. While Marty wants this to be a Game 7 to remember, Clemmensen believes the advantage is to the Panthers with home ice. Again, if there’s one thing to remember, nothing comes easy in playoff hockey and nothing comes guaranteed.
Home ice is nice, but every single player on every roster is battling for a chance to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. I expect Game 7 to be fast paced and teams taking chances they didn’t take early in the series. After all, one team is going home, one team is moving on.