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Seizing Momentum

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers
Forward Sean Bergenheim scored the Panthers first goal of the game to start a comeback from down three goals as the Panthers won 4-3 to take a 2-1 series advantage over the Devils.

A day after staging the biggest comeback in franchise playoff history to grab a 2-1 series lead, head coach Kevin Dineen decided to keep his players off the ice Wednesday in New Jersey.

"We met for no more than 10 minutes today and the boys are off to a local gym to get an off-ice stretch and get their heart rates up but today is good (following an) emotional win last night," said Dineen. "We enjoyed that for a couple of hours and start finding our business mode again later on today."

If you somehow missed Game 3 or at least parts of it, Florida found themselves trailing by three goals just 6:16 into the contest against the Devils. Dineen pulled Jose Theodore in favor of Scott Clemmensen, got two power play goals to close within one by the end of the first and potted two more in the second to come back and win a huge game at Prudential Center Tuesday night.

"I think for the most part, after they scored three goals and after we kind of get going, we kind of pushed back, as soon as we started to push back a little bit which unfortunately it was halfway through the first and they already have three goals on the board at that point," said Clemmensen following the Panthers workout. "The good thing is we came back from it. You obviously don't want to do that on a consistent basis. I think at that point, the point when I went in, I think I made two saves. As soon as we scored, that started our momentum going the other way. This series has been about momentum obviously."

That it certainly has been.

Each of the teams have alternated three-goal leads with the other team mounting some sort of push back. In Game 3, it was the first time that the team that held a three-goal lead couldn't close the deal. That gave the Panthers a big leg up in the race for four wins in the seven game series.

"You look at that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series and it's so wild and crazy, so wide open, so many goals are scored. I think that ours is a little bit different in the fact that  momentum seems to be going with one team here and then stop and then it goes back the other way," said Clemmensen who finished with 19 saves for his first career playoffs victory. "And when the team has momentum, they're scoring goals. I said it (Tuesday) night and I'll say it again, it just goes to show you that regardless of whether the momentum is with or against you, you have to stay with it. That can be said for both teams."

"Yeah you have the momentum after you win a game, being up, but that changes so quickly in playoffs. It could change from a shift. It could change from goals," said defenseman Brian Campbell who netted the game-winner in the second period. "Even (Tuesday) night, they had the momentum when they were up 3-0 and we found a way to get it back so it's so up and down in the playoffs. Things could change. For us as a team, we need to be aware of that and know that nothing is safe. Nothing is going to be given to us."

Dineen Off-Day (4/18/12)
Campbell Off-Day (4/18/12)
Clemmensen Off-Day (4/18/12)
For the Panthers, taking Game 3 was huge as at the very least, they'll head back to South Florida and Game 5 with at least a tied series, if not more.

"We took care of getting home-ice advantage back," said Campbell. "I think any time in a series you want to be the team that goes out and try to get more, be selfish and try to get more in the next game.

"They're all deciding games to kind of swing the series around but we want to be the team that gets two in a row here (at the Prudential Center)."

While Dineen was happy with the Panthers push back and eventual win, he and his team know that a much better start is needed as New Jersey will be throwing everything at them in hopes of not going down 3-1 in the series with Game 5 Saturday night.

"You look at the flip side to come out and get down 3-0 twice is pretty irresponsible and not acceptable," said Dineen. "Hey it's sports. We're big boys. You man up and you understand that you have to be better in certain situations and you have to acknowledge that the response factor has been good for the most part as well so there's been a balancing act of making sure that you're understanding what it's going to take for us to have success, not in the series, but in Game 4."

"Success for us would be making sure that we try to have a good first five minutes," said Dineen.

A large reason the Panthers are up in their series has been thanks to the power play. The Cats man advantage units scored on all three power play attempts in Game 3 and have recorded goals on six of their 10 opportunities through the first three games.

That success comes from everyone on the squads, but a large part has been to Campbell. In his first season with the Panthers, the blueliner finished third in the NHL in the regular season (first among defensemen) with 31 power play points. Two of his three points in the post-season have come on the man advantage, including the game-winner Tuesday.

"When the puck is on Soupy's stick, so many good things happen from there," said Dineen before focusing on the units as a whole. "What I don't do is get into specifics. But the intangible is is there is a lot of will and there's a lot of want on that power play right now and that seems to be a big factor in our short term success."

While the Cats have had the power play success against a Devils team that finished with the top penalty kill unit in the regular season, they know that they have to get all areas firing.

"It's been going pretty good but I think the biggest message is we can't rely on that," said Campbell. "You know that's not going to keep up at that pace. We want to win the battle in games and we also have to work hard to get the five-on-five battle as well."
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