NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils followed up their best game of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Florida Panthers with their worst on Saturday and now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
The Panthers registered a 3-0 victory in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Tuesday at Prudential Center. After the defeat, Devils captain Zach Parise questioned his team's competitive fire.
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"We didn't compete hard enough," Parise said. "We have to win two in a row and that's the way it is now. We'll be ready to play Game 6."
Devils coach Pete DeBoer agreed with Parise.
"We haven't had many nights this year where we were out-competed for stretches of the game, but I think that did happen [Saturday]," DeBoer said via a conference call on Sunday afternoon. "I agree with Zach and we have to fix that. Part of the reason for that on Saturday was the fact Florida played with some real desperation in their game and, for some reason, we didn't in stretches. But we'll certainly see it now."
In order for the Devils to win their first playoff series in five years, they'll have to accomplish something they haven't done in the postseason since 2007 -- win two in a row. The Devils have gone 27 straight playoff games without winning back-to-back contests. That last occurred in 2007, when the team won three straight to take its quarterfinal-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
"It's amazing when you hear these kind of stats, but again there's been a big turnaround in the last … since the lockout," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "We changed players and the game has changed. We're not the only team in this situation. We're fortunate we only missed the playoffs once in a long while and when you're there, you never know what's going to happen.
"We're looking to do better this time around, we're still alive."
Additionally, the Devils have lost their last four home games when facing playoff elimination. Still, DeBoer feels his club will be ready on Tuesday. The coach said he addressed the players at the airport before the flight home to Newark on Saturday night, but he didn't care to share with the media what was said.
"Whenever we've been in a tough spot this year, we've come out swinging, and I do anticipate that type of response," DeBoer said.
While a lot of credit must be given to the resilient Panthers, who shut out the Devils without the services of defensive lynchpin Jason Garrison in the lineup, 10 minutes worth of minor penalties not only helped Florida snap a scoreless tie in the second, but prevented the visitors from establishing any sort of rhythm offensively.
"We need to forecheck better; that's how we get our chances," Parise said. "We didn't forecheck enough as a five-man unit last game. Florida played very well though. I thought [Game 5] was the best game they've played this whole series. We'll have to expect that in Game 6."
The Devils have a decided advantage playing 5-on-5 against the Panthers, outscoring their opponent, 8-4. The Panthers, meanwhile, have outscored the Devils, 7-4, on the power-play.
Brodeur and Parise both feel the Devils are better equipped to handle adversity.
"It's been a tight series but every game was winnable for us," Parise said. "We play a better team game."
Brodeur actually recalled the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres when the Devils dropped a 1-0 decision in Game 6, only to return home and score a 2-1 victory in Game 7 to advance.
"You look at what some of the Stanley Cup teams of the past have had to go through; they went through hurdles," Brodeur said. "Boston went through a lot of Game 7s last year. Situations happen in the playoffs, and you just hope your team deals with them the right way. You have to be ready for that challenge. We're playing a team that wants it as bad as we do, but maybe we'll be able to look back on the last two games of this series and say, they gave us that added push we needed to advance."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale