Facing a team that had 16 wins in 20 games coming into action Sunday afternoon, the Florida Panthers knew they would have their hands full with the hot New Jersey Devils. And with injuries and transactions becoming more of a factor, the Panthers found themselves behind the eight ball, and lost 2-1 in Sunrise.
After a scoreless first period, New Jersey got on the board first at 5:46 of the second period when David Clarkson buried a backhand goal off a rebound. Rod Pelley took a shot, which Tomas Vokoun stopped, but Clarkson put home the rebound passed a diving Vokoun.
The Devils extended their lead 9:11 into the second period, on a power play goal by Brian Rolston. Dainius Zubrus won the face off cleanly, and Rolston blasted a shot from the left point, through the legs of Vokoun.
Trailing 2-0 late in the third period, Panthers rookie Michal Repik grabbed a puck behind the New Jersey net, and fired a centering pass to Marty Reasoner, who snuck the puck between Martin Brodeur and the post for his 13th goal of the year.
Both teams could undergo changes before they resume play again, as the trade deadline hits tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. The Panthers have already moved Michael Frolik, Cory Stillman, and captain Bryan McCabe, and now have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Despite being nine points out of a playoff spot, the Devils are thinking post season, with a 17-2-2 stretch in their last 21 games. Florida still has just 12 wins at home this season, tying them with the New York Islanders for the third lowest total in the NHL.
The Panthers return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Carolina to face the Hurricanes.