A match up of all time greats was on display on Saturday night when the Panthers hosted the New Jersey Devils in front of over 16,000 fans at the BankAtlantic Center. The two teams had met three times prior to Saturday’s match up with each team undefeated on their home ice. The Panthers had beaten the Devils 4-2 in January in the Devils only trip to South Florida this season, while the Devils won two in a two week span at the Continental Airlines Arena in late October and early November.
Ed Belfour started his 26th consecutive game and continues to build on his record number of consecutive starts by a Panthers goalie, in addition to being third all-time in NHL history for most wins. Just in front of The Eagle on that all-time wins list is Devils long-time netminder Martin Brodeur. With two goalie greats squaring off, a shoot out ending seemed only natural to end the game.
The Devils walked away with the extra point in the affair when Devils center Travis Zajac beat goalie Ed Belfour for what would prove to be the deciding shoot out goal. Olli Jokinen had a chance to extend the shoot out but was stoned by Brodeur. Jokinen cracked the game open in the first period with a wrist shot about six feet over the blue line giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The goal also moved Jokinen into sole possession of second place in Panthers history for career goals. The captain has also scored 12 goals and 8 assists in the last 13 games.
The Panthers jumped on the board again with an unassisted goal by Stephen Weiss
early in the second period. The Devils however got things going on the power play when Juraj Kolnik was whistled for a questionable hooking call that resulted in a David Clarkson power play goal—the only scored by either side on the night. The Devils struck again in the closing minutes of the second period knotting the game at two apiece to begin the third.
The Devils would find themselves behind again when when Ville Peltonen shelved a Chris Gratton rebound just inside three minutes of the third period to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Peltonen, who also added the only goal of the shoot out for the Panthers, scored his 16 goal of the season. Dowd knotted the game at 3-all and sent it to a scoreless over time.
The Panthers have dropped just two games in their last nine at the BankAtlantic Center and the game Saturday night ended their run of nine consecutive home Saturday games. The Cats head to the St. Pete Times Forum to begin their run of their last seven games of the regular season when the play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.