Earlier in the week New Jersey Devils rookie Adam Henrique was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy and by the end of the week he was scoring a double overtime goal in game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The 22-year-old scored his second goal of the game at 3:47 of double overtime to give New Jersey a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers and send them past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The game-winning play started innocently enough with David Clarkson and Alex Ponikarovsky holding the puck in the Florida zone. Ponikarovsky chipped the puck to Henrique, who found himself in the right place at the right time with the biscuit on his stick.
The rookie center gathered the puck just outside the right circle as three Panthers defenders converged on him. Henrique then calmly skated into the slot and snapped a seeing-eye shot through the five-hole of a dumbfounded Jose Theodore.
The goal sent New Jersey to Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference semifinal opener Sunday, and the resilient Panthers back to the drawing board.
The double OT series clincher was the cherry on top of one of the more unconventional, if not entertaining playoff series in recent memory.
In the first five games of the series, at least one team had a 3-0 lead with the Devils losing game three after blowing their three-goal cushion. In games six and seven, New Jersey squandered 2-0 leads before ultimately winning in overtime.
The Devils boasted the leagues best penalty killing unit ever during the regular season but they surrendered nine power play goals in the seven games, including one in the third period of game 7. In fact the final game was the only game of the series in which the team that won the game didn’t notch a power play goal.
The whole series was a mess but one thing is for sure, Martin Brodeur was outstanding. The soon-to-be 40-year-old goalie was great when he had to be. His 43 saves in the series clincher were the catalyst to the Devils eventually turning the Panthers away.
Now the Devils must turn their attention to their Atlantic Division foes, the Philadelphia Flyers. New Jersey and Philly split their six meetings in the regular season. This will also mark the fifth time in the Brodeur era that these two teams have met in the playoffs; Philadelphia won in 2004 and 2010, while New Jersey knocked out the Flyers on their way to Cup titles in 1995 and 2000.
I have to give the Panthers credit. They played a great series and they never gave up. They just kept finding ways to pull themselves back form the dead. If cats really do have nine lives, Florida used up at least six of theirs.
Oh well, at least we won’t have to see anymore of those darn rats…good riddance.
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