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Panthers Wrap-Up: Panthers 3, Devils 0

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 0 1 2 0 3
Devils 0 0 0 0 0
FLA - PP - K. Versteeg (2), S. Upshall (1), SH-EN - T. Kopecky (1)
SUNRISE, Fla (AP) - Kris Versteeg scored a goal and set up another, Jose Theodore made 30 saves for his second postseason shutout, and the Florida Panthers moved a win away from their first series win in 16 years with a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Scottie Upshall also scored for Florida, which leads the Eastern Conference first-round series 3-2. The Panthers' last series victory came in the 1996 East finals, and they'll have two chances to snap that drought.

"At the other end of the ice, I think, for me that's Theo. That's what I expected out of him. You know what. He gets sat a game and he comes back. That's a true professional...That's what my full expectations is how he played tonight."

- Head coach Kevin Dineen on Jose Theodore's play between the pipes.
1. Theo Returns Strong: Pulled 6:16 into Game 3 and the backup in Game 4 with Scott Clemmensen got the start, Jose Theodore looked fresh throughout Game 5. The netminder definitely didn't look any worse for the wear as the was solid throughout in pitching his second career shutout. Theodore stopped 11 shots in the opening period and another six in the second. He was especially brilliant in the third with Florida up just a goal for the majority of the period and he stopped all 13 shots in the final stanza. Theodore got the crowd going with a double pads stack on Patrik Elias with 7:15 remaining as the Devils' forward was in close on the play. Then with 13:34 left in the second, he robbed former Panther Steve Bernier from the slot with another great save. It was definitely Theodore's night.

2. A Power Play Strike: The Panthers and Devils played a very close game for the opening two periods. Shots were even at 11 after one and the Panthers doubled up the shots in the second by a 12-6 margin. Thanks to the strong play of Theodore and Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur it looked like one goal might be enough. That goal came off the stick of Kris Versteeg just four minutes into the middle period. 30 seconds had gone by in a Marek Zidlicky interference call when Stephen Weiss found Versteeg from outside the face-off circle and the winger one-timed a low shot past Brodeur for his second of the post-season. Florida finished the night 1-for-6 on the man advantage but that one that they did convert on was huge.

3. Total Team Effort Gets Cats One Win Away: With New Jersey attempting to knot the score in the third, the Panthers went into lock down. Erik Gudbranson stepped up. So did Shawn Matthias and Tomas Kopecky. The entire team pulled together and thwarted the Devils attack. That same effort gave the Cats a two-goal cushion with 6:43 to play. Matthias did the dirty work at center ice and Scottie Upshall dumped the puck in. Then Versteeg outraced Brodeur for the puck (limited by the trapezoid) and put a backhand to the front of the net where a crashing Upshall put the puck into wide open net to set the BankAtlantic Center off rocking. After Gudbranson cleared hte puck with a little over two minutes to play without a stick, he was whistled for roughing. With Brodeur pulled for the extra attacker, the Devils had a 6-on-4 advantage. It didn't matter as Kopecky blocked a shot near the blueline and then raced in on the empty net. Hooked by Ilya Kovalchuk on the play, the goal was awarded to the Panthers with 34 seconds remaining on the clock. The 3-0 shutout victory was huge as it moves the Cats to 3-2 in the series. That gives them two shots at posting one victory and moving on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@LilMissRatTrick: Prom last night was so much fun, and tonight's #FlaPanthers game was incredible! I'm one #happyhuman :)

@stefan9107: #FlaPanthers are officially the #1 cause of insomnia. Time to go dream about them lifting the cup! #BelieveRed

@mtodd90: Gudbranson was a beast tonight. Is he really 20 years old? Ridiculous! #Guddy #FlaPanthers

@DK_KESSLER: People are deff getting out of control with the rats! How hard is it to wait till after the game? #followdirections!!!! #FlaPanthers

@_LaLa305_: WOW what an awesome game @FlaPanthers the atmosphere at the stadium was CRAZY! #FlaPanthers #StanleyCup #WeSeeRats

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Cape Vape: Love seeing the rats rain down in South Florida again! Good job Cats!!

Steven Swam: by far, the best entire gane effort of the series, GO PANTHERS!!!!!!

Dan Janoff: Incredible. Panthers fans should be proud of themselves tonight.

James Wiens: I can't stop smiling jose got the shut out I called earlier before the game started woo I just super stoked!

Rosa Ruiz: Congrats Jose , Good revenge. Please do the same in the next. Please.

1. A lot of stats dealing with the number one. The Panthers scored on just one of their six power play opportunities but it was an important one as Kris Versteeg's second period marker stood as the game-winner. Also a couple of playoff firsts. Recalled earlier in the day, Tyson Strachan played in his first NHL playoff game. Also, setting up the second goal of the game, Shawn Matthias picked up his first playoff point with the assist.

Getting the start, Jose Theodore stopped all 30 Devils shots for his second career playoff shutout. He previously stopped 34 shots for the Montreal Canadiens while shutting out Boston (2-0) on April 19, 2004.

3. Three seems to be the magic number in this series. In each of the first five games, a team had scored at least the first three goals of the contest (Game 4, Devils scored four). In all but one of them, the team that has scored the first three goals of the game has gone on to win.

9. Talk about a wallop. Jerred Smithson packed quite a punch Saturday night as he registered nine of the Panthers 46 hits. Smithson also won all six face-offs he took in just 11:10 of ice time.

19,513. From even before the puck drop to the final horn and after, the BankAtlantic Center was rocking with 19,513 strong. It was the largest crowd to witness a Panthers playoff game in franchise history (both at home and on the road).

Jose Theodore
After not playing in almost two full games, came out strong and was huge all night as the Panthers had one goal lead. Registered second career playoff shutout

 30 Shots, 30 Saves, 1.000 SV%
Up 3-2 in the Best-of-7 Series, Florida will get two cracks to close it out and move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They hope to only need one and do it on Tuesday but it will be tough with a New Jersey team that has their backs against the ropes. Game 6 will be in New Jersey.

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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