Panthers rat around in Game 1

Devils forward Patrik Elias scores on Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore during Game 1 of their NHL...

Devils forward Patrik Elias scores on Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore during Game 1 of their NHL Eastern conference quarterfinal series at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.,, April 13, 2012. (RHONA WISE/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. - Martin Brodeur basked in the moment, but made sure to mention his counterpart.

Brodeur recorded his 100th NHL playoff victory Friday night when the New Jersey Devils defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

Only the retired Patrick Roy, with 151 post-season wins, has more.

“One goalie had done it in the past, and it was Patrick, so it was kind of nice to get in the hundreds even though there is no chance I will catch him,” Brodeur said. “Big numbers are nice to get to. People always look at 50, 100 or whatever when you start looking at (milestones) to reach.”

Panthers goalie Jose Theodore made sure Brodeur did not have an easy time hitting the century mark.

The Devils fired 26 shots at Theodore in the first period and opened a 3-0 lead. They might have scored a half-dozen goals if not for Theodore, who was the only Panther to show up in the opening 20 minutes.

“If it was not for Jose, it could have been a lot different,” Brodeur said. “He played unbelievable. He made some big saves. And then in the third, stopping Zach (Parise) on a breakaway, that kept them in the game.”

For Theodore, though, the result mattered most. For the Panthers as a whole, consider the slow start in their first playoff game in 12 years a lesson learned.

“You take away the first period and we played a solid game,” Theodore said. “But in the playoffs, you can’t be down early, and you can’t wait for a period to get ready. Give them credit, but it is our responsibility to match that effort right off the start of the game. In the playoffs, it is all about winning, and we lost the game.”

Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and Ryan Carter scored for the Devils.

Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg scored in the second period for the Panthers, and the home-team fans, who had been waiting over a decade for this game, peppered the ice with plastic rats after both goals. That brought pleas from the public address announcer to stop throwing objects on the ice.

After the second goal, there was nothing more to worry about.

In the first, the Devils set a team playoff record for most shots in one period, erasing the previous mark of 20 done in 1997 against the New York Rangers. It was the most shots by any NHL team in the playoffs in one period since April 10, 2008, when the San Jose Sharks had 27 against the Calgary Flames.

A questionable four-minute high-sticking minor on the Panthers’ Shawn Matthias in the first didn’t help his team's cause. The Devils got their second goal of the game with eight seconds remaining in the second minor when Zubrus (with an assist by Brodeur) snapped a shot past Theodore. Forty-five seconds later, at 14:56, Carter scored the winner.

Elias made it 1-0 6:31 into the game when he waited out Theodore and picked the top corner on the Devils’ 13th shot.

The Panthers appeared to have little interest until Bergenheim summoned the rodents when he scored at 7:44 of the second. Once Florida killed off a pair of minors to Wojtek Wolski that occurred minutes apart, their heads were back in it.

Versteeg stepped in front of the net and slid the puck under Brodeur with just over four minutes remaining in the period. Versteeg’s goal was on a four-on-three power play as the Panthers got the better of a Devils penalty kill that was first in the NHL during the regular season with an 89.6% success rate.

But the Devils buckled down in the final period and the Panthers couldn’t penetrate.

“We bottled them up,” said Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who notched his first NHL playoff win. “Our third period was great. It’s exactly the way we want to play. The pressure shifts to them and we have to get greedy now and try to get two (wins).”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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