With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.
You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.
No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.
They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.
As the countdown to the 2010 playoff opener between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, I’ll take a look back at the past postseason meetings between the two teams. Today, I look back at the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Devils, fresh off their surprising defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins, faced off against the Flyers. The Flyers were looking to get back to the Cup finals for the first time since 1987, and the Devils were searching for their first ever Stanley Cup berth. The Flyers held home-ice advantage throughout the series, setting the tone between these rivals.
In the first game of the series, the Devils jumped all over the Flyers, taking a 3-0 lead after the first two periods. Bill Guerin added his second goal of the game to stretch the lead to four. Craig McTavish broke Martin Brodeur’s shutout with 1:54 remaining in regulation, but that was all the noise the Flyers would make. New Jersey defeated Philadelphia, 4-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
The team’s traded goals in game two, with Mikael Renberg putting the Flyers ahead, 2-1, at the 13:54 mark of the first period. It gave the Flyers their first lead of the series. Devils’ forward John MacLean scored with 12 seconds left in the first, tying the game at two. New Jersey scored three straight goals in the second period, and went on to defeat the Flyers, 5-2. The Devils eliminated the home-ice advantage, dominating the Flyers and heading back to the Meadowlands with a 2-0 series lead.
The Flyers came into game three a desperate team. The Devils jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but Rod Brind’Amour tied the game with 6:03 left in regulation. Flyers captain Eric Lindros played the role of hero, scoring at 4:19 of the extra session to win the game. It gave Philadelphia life, and the cut the Devils’ lead in half, 2-1.
Game three helped the Flyers confidence, as Ron Hextall turned in a terrific performance. The Flyers goalie stopped 32 shots, vastly outplayed Brodeur, who finished with 15 saves. The Flyers won the game, 4-2, to head back home tied in the series, 2-2. Heading back on the road, the Devils needed a strong performance to get themselves back into the series.
Game five began well for the Devils, with the team taking a lead, 2-1, after the first period. After a scoreless middle period, the Flyers’ Kevin Dineen’s second goal of the game tied the game 3:13 into the final period. Stephane Richer almost gave the Devils’ a lead, breaking in alone on Hextall with under four minutes to play. The Devils’ forward rang a shot off the crossbar, ending the threat. But the Devils weren’t done, and Claude Lemieux scored one of the memorable goals in Devils postseason history. With less than a minute remaining, Lemieux picked up the puck in his own zone, and carried it into the Flyers zone. After crossing the blue line, Lemieux fired a shot that beat Hextall glove side, silencing the Spectrum crowd and giving the Devils a lead, 3-2. The Devils would hang on and head home with a chance to clinch the series on home ice.
Here’s the goal that broke Philadelphia fans hearts:
The Devils returned home in the same situation as the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals – up in the series, 3-2, with a chance to clinch on home ice. While the Rangers went on to defeat the Devils in seven games, this series would end on a better note. Jim Montgomery scored 4:05 into the opening period to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. But the Devils, in large part to their trapping defense, would take control of the game. Richer tied the game with a powerplay goal at 10:25, and Brian Rolston scored with 1:45 left in the first period to give the Devils a 2-1 advantage. The second period would prove pivotal, as the Devils shut down the Flyers attack.
With the team holding on to a 2-1 lead, Bobby Holik would provide a big insurance goal. McTavish came into the Devils zone, putting a shot on net from the blue line. Shawn Chambers blocked the shot, and forwarded the puck to Holik. With four Flyers caught in the defensive zone, the Devils broke in with a 3-on-1. Holik held the puck, and Flyers’ defenseman Kevin Haller went to the ice to block the pass. Holik threaded a pass past the diving defenseman to Randy McKay, who deflected the puck past Hextall for the goal. The Devils extended the lead to 4-1 at 10:11 of the period. It was Lemieux once again, breaking in on Hextall all alone. He beat the Flyers goalie for his 11th goal of the postseason.
Renberg scored to cut the Devils lead, 4-2, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Devils defeated the Flyers, 4-2, to win the game and the series. Here was the Devils’ celebration:
They would move on to their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Detroit Red Wings, sweeping the series for their first ever Stanley Cup championship. Lemieux, who set career highs in playoff goals scored, won the Conn Smythe Trophy.