In Game 1, the Florida Panthers seemed totally unprepared for the emotional demands of playoff hockey. Surrendering six power plays and 38 shots to the New Jersey Devils, the most remarkable part of the game was that they nearly dragged themselves back into things late in regulation.
For Game 2, the Panthers finally seemed ready to play at the same competitive level as their opponent, and that may be a bad sign for the Devils.
In simple box score terms, the Panthers -- who won, 4-2, to even the series at a game apiece -- took only two penalties on this go-around, both of which were successfully killed, while they drew a pivotal five-on-three power play late in the first period that resulted in an early second period goal for Stephen Weiss.
The bigger story, though, was the way Kevin Dineen had his Florida club pursuing the puck throughout the game. Aggressively fighting for the puck in the neutral zone and chasing turnovers for the full 60 minutes, it was a total 180 compared to the club that seemed totally overwhelmed and exposed through most of Friday night.
Blocking shots and preventing the Devils from establishing their offense for long stretches, the Panthers' efforts paid off as they limited the Devils to just 25 shots on goal. They also were able to rely on a strong performance from Jose Theodore -- particularly in the final minutes of the third period. Making key stops on Ilya Kovalchuk after the Devils sent an extra attacker out in place of Martin Brodeur, Theodore's defense repaid the favor as it blocked shots and worked to clear pucks down the ice, eventually setting up Tomas Fleischmann's empty-net goal to seal their first playoff victory in 15 years.
With the series now tied, it will be interesting to see if Dineen can keep his club engaged with the same level of discipline as the scene shifts to Prudential Center in Newark, a building where the teams split their two meetings in the regular season.