If there was a textbook about how to respond to an embarrassing playoffs loss, the New Jersey Devils would be on the cover. Brodeur made 26 saves for his NHL record 24th postseason shutout in a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
After giving away a 3-0 lead in an eventual 4-3 loss in game three, the Devils appeared to be on the precipice of another Stanley Cup playoff flop. The penalty kill was in shambles, the goaltending was awful and the offense dried up when New Jersey needed it most.
But, that was then and this is now.
Brodeur was fantastic, responding to critics and doubters with about as stellar a performance as we’ve seen thus far in this postseason. He turned aside shot after shot, including a dandy on a Dmitry Kulikov breakaway to preserve what was a 1-0 lead at the time.
The Devils special teams were impressive all night long. They were 2 for 4 on the power play with both goals coming for the big guns of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. New Jersey needed them to respond in a big way and they answered the call.
The biggest difference between this game and the previous three games was the dominance of New Jersey’s penalty kill. After having surrendered six goals in the ten previous penalty kills, the Devils thwarted all five Florida power plays on Thursday night.
If anything, the perfect kills have New Jersey believing in themselves again. After all, they weren’t the NHL’s best PK unit on accident and tonight they showed they can still be the best when called upon.
I also thought the defense was a big factor in the series tying victory. Anton Volchenkov, who had been on the ice for all nine Panthers goals in the series, was +2 on the night and I was especially impressed with Peter Harrold. He is proving to be a solid blueliner with very good hands. Harrold played the point on the man advantage and picked up an assist on Kovalchuk’s power play goal.
The fourth line played excellent again. In fact they have been the Devils most effective line to this point. Stephen Gionta missed a golden opportunity to score his second goal of the series in the second period when his one time bid zipped wide of an open Panthers net.
But, Steve Bernier made up for it in the third. He roofed the puck past Scott Clemmenson for the lines third even strength goal of the series.
Now they go back to Florida for the pivotal game five. If the Devils play anything like they did tonight they should have no problem winning the series. If they revert back to the Devils of games one through three…well, let’s just say that would be a problem.
Follow me on Twitter! @StevePalumboNHL
Email me at StevePalumboNHL@gmail.com