Good-bye, Sunrise; hello Philadelphia. Bus driver, here come the Devils!
Peter DeBoer’s skaters played as hard a road game on Thursday night in Sunrise as they could.
Then again, the Panthers played as good a home game as fans have seen at BankAtlantic Center.
When the irresistible force meets the immovable object in NHL playoffs it usually results in sudden death overtime. This tim, it required a second extra session before rookie Adam Henrique sealed the deal for New Jersey with the game-winner.
Just when it looked like the teams would play well into Friday morning, Henrique did the trick at 3:47, beating an indefatigable Jose Theodore.
It was Henrique’s second of the game — the first came in the opening period — and it resulted from tenacious forechecking.
Before Adam got the puck, his linemates David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky were ferrets on the spoor of a hot puck, and that produced the triumph.
Clarkson kept the biscuit in the enemy zone whereupon Ponikarovsky managed to float it in the air to Henrique, who gloved the puck down in the high slot and fired the rubber through Theodore’s legs.
“It was tiring,” said a quietly elated Henrique. “I was about to collapse. It was a nice feeling to get the OT winner. I just tried to get it on net and it went in.”
Surely, none of this euphoria would have been possible had Martin Brodeur not saved the Garden State bacon with 43 total stops and marvelous saves in the extra sessions; particularly in the first sudden death.
“Marty was our best player tonight,” coach DeBoer said, “and he had to be or we don’t win.”
But the Devils enter the second round against the Flyers totally enervated after a reassuring start.
They had a one-goal lead, a two-goal lead, then a one-goal lead and lost that in the dying moments of the third period, setting the stage for a second straight sudden death overtime.
Goals by Henrique and Stephen Gionta staked New Jersey to a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Florida narrowed it to one early in the third on Florida’s power play, which had haunted New Jersey throughout the series.
Stephen Weiss blasted a one-timer from the right circle past Brodeur.
From that point on it was a hold-your-breath affair for the Devils, who were heavily outshot over the third period. The Panthers pressed and the Devils tried to de-press their fleet foe.
The melodrama mounted as the clock ticked first past the 10-minute mark; and then down to six. In classic fashion, the tug-of-war continued until the Devils lost a tug.
Then it happened! With less than four minutes left, a delay of game penalty was called against Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who tried to clear his zone from deep in the left corner but fired the puck over the glass.
That set up a power play and a relatively quick goal by Marcel Goc, who gathered the rebound from Sean Bergenheim’s shot and snapped the puck past Brodeur’s glove.
Into the overtime they went and the Devils failed on a power play followed by several close calls for the visitors, but no cigar.
The Devils bent, but Brodeur’s saves kept them from breaking; leading to the second overtime and the happy ending.
“We are happy to move on,” Florida had a helluva series. We made it hard on ourselves with penalties and that needs to be better.
“We have to stay out of the box against the Flyers. They have a lot of firepower and they are really confident. We have to be smart and very disciplined.”
Right now, they’re tickled pink in red, black and white!