The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN’s take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there’s the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn’t get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
DEVILS/PANTHERS, GAME 6: DEVILS 3, PANTHERS 2 (OT) (SERIES TIED 3-3)
THN’s Take: The series affectionately known as the one-the-hockey-world-forgot is going to a Game 7. And by then we’ll surely know about it.
Being the only NHL playoff game on the docket Tuesday put this Devils/Panthers tilt squarely in the spotlight. Sure, it wasn’t/isn’t near as compelling as Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia or Ottawa versus the Rangers or Boston versus Washington – or any of the four opening-round series out west for that matter – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its redeeming qualities. Hey, there’s a seventh Sutter brother, right, who never played in the NHL. But as hockey lore goes, Gary Sutter was more talented than his famous brothers, yet stayed home to work the family farm.
The neat thing about this Gary Sutter series is each of the first five games saw one team take a 3-0 lead. In two instances, Florida battled back from the 3-0 deficits to win 4-3. That means the Panthers rallied twice against future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur to gain a 3-2 series lead. This is the same Florida organization that hadn’t made it to the post-season in 11 years and hasn’t made it to the second round since 1996, when defenseman Eric Gudbranson was three.
Another neat factoid is the Devils haven’t won back-to-back playoffs games since 2006, a span of 27 games. They’ll need to snap that streak if they want to advance to the second round. Judging by the way Game 6 unfolded, New Jersey has to be considered a favorite, even though the deciding game is in Sunrise, Fla. The Devils outshot Florida 42-16, including 6-3 in overtime. The Panthers are playing like the out-chanced Phoenix Coyotes did against Chicago. Get all-world goaltending, then make the most of limited chances.
The other neat storylines sure to get more play in Game 7: New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer spent the past three seasons coaching in Florida where the series will come to a conclusion. Also, Florida shutdown center John Madden was a fixture with some Cup champion teams in New Jersey.
1. Travis Zajac – And not just because he scored the overtime winner, his third of the series. It was a crafty Zajac set-up to Ilya Kovalchuk on the power play that gave the Devils a 2-0 lead that was squandered. More than that though, Zajac showed more jump and drive than his high-profile linemates, Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Moreover, the faceoff-weak Devils did all right in that department in Game 6 with Zajac leading the way with a 14-10 record.
2. Scott Clemmensen – Jose Theodore’s injury replacement spent five years in the Devils organization backing up Martin Brodeur so maybe he was using the cheering Devils fans to his advantage. He gave up a bit of a softie on the game’s opening goal to Steve Bernier in the first period, but he was rock solid afterwards as his Panthers were outshot by a 3-1 ratio virtually all game. He did make 39 saves in 66 minutes. Clemmensen actually posted better numbers than Theodore down the stretch and is full value to getting crease time in late April.
3. Sean Bergenheim – He’s Mr. Money in the post-season, scoring 12 goals in his past 20 playoff games dating back to last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. His quick-handed goal off a 4-on-2 break with seven minutes remaining evened the score 2-2 and forced overtime. Bergenheim now has four goals in his past three games in which his team can win a series. That makes up for his measly 23 points in 62 regular season games for the Panthers.
The Black Hole: OK, someone has to say it. I saw the humor in the Klondike mint chip ice cream bar commercials the first time I saw it, but the more I fast-forward past it – every commercial break – the more I see it demeaning to women trying to have a conversation with their husbands. Suck it up Mark, you’re an idiot. Your poor wife looks heartbroken at your reaction to listening to her for five seconds. Do some sit-ups, then give her your ear for a while.
– Brian Costello