Coming off of their fifth straight loss against the New York Islanders on Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils hosted the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center on Friday night. Florida’s netminder Craig Anderson made his first debut against the Devils with 31 saves in the 2-1 win over New Jersey.
John Madden was not cleared to play for the game against the Florida Panthers, due to the laceration on his right ankle. Karel Rachunek made his return after missing the last ten games.
The Devils started off the scoring in the game during the second period. Travis Zajac picked up the first goal of the night off of a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner at 1:50, his tenth goal of the season. This goal marked Zajac’s fifth goal in his last eight games.
“We’ll fight on our terms; and we’ll initiate on our terms,” Mike Rupp had said after the first period when asked about his thoughts on players trying to begin scraps between himself and David Clarkson. The Devils’ bad boy, Clarkson, was a major target for the Panthers. At 5:34, Tanner Glass grabbed Clarkson after he delivered a legal hit on Glass’ teammate against the boards. The Devils had already registered eleven hits in the game (while the Panthers had zero hits) by the time the scrap begun.
Zajac’s goal would end up being the only Devils goal of the game. The Devils, the lowest scoring team in the NHL, were 0-4 on the man advantage during the second period. “Our awareness around the net wasn’t good,” Sutter said after the game. “When you’re up you have to win the hockey game, bottom line.”
The Panthers would not be able to get on the scoreboard until the third period when Radek Dvorak was able to rebound a shot that came off of Martin Brodeur’s pad and score the first Panthers’ goal at 2:28, his fifth goal of the season. Feeding off of Dvorak’s momentum, David Booth delivered the Panthers second goal of the game with a wrist-shot at 3:45, his thirteenth goal of the season. The Panthers were 2 for 6 on their shots on goal in the final period. As the seconds wound down, the Devils called a time-out and pulled Brodeur from the net. Even with six attackers out on the ice, the Devils were not able to get a shot on goal with the Panthers aggressively teaming up on each Devils player handling the puck, disabling their chances to tie up the game, and defeating the Devils 2-1.
After their second straight loss, the Devils were still tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with the Penguins. In Pittsburgh, the Penguins lost to Tampa Bay in a shutout on Friday night. Sidney Crosby suffered a high ankle sprain during the first period and could possibly be out for the next four weeks, but nothing is certain until they evaluate the extent of his injury after the swelling goes down. This could possibly affect the Pittsburgh Penguins standings in the playoffs. The Penguins will depend heavily on Evgeni Malkin to step up and try to fill the void of the team’s captain.
The Devils next game will be on Sunday in Prudential Center at 5:00 p.m. For those fans attending the game, the New York Giants v. Green Bay Packers game will be aired throughout the arena. Fans are invited to stay after the hockey game to watch the Giants, as all restaurants at “The Rock” will be open until the end of the football game.