The Florida Panthers, following a home split to start their series against the New Jersey Devils, started Game 3 by falling behind 3-0. New Jersey started the game brilliantly, and even though Jose Theodore could have done more to prevent the Devils' goals, his team never really gave him a chance. He was pulled in the first period for Scott Clemmensen and that move energized the Panthers. They scored twice in the first period, then twice in the second for an impressive 4-3 comeback win.
Clemmensen was excellent, making 19 saves, but the low number of shots he faced is an indicator of how well the Panthers played after Kevin Dineen made the goalie switch. Theodore allowed a goal to Zach Parise just 33 seconds in, and the Devils followed that up with a goal by Stephen Gionta and a power play goal by Patrick Elias to make it 3-0 after just 6:16 of play. When Clemmensen came in, the Devils made him make one save right away, then fell asleep for the remainder of the first period.
Bad penalties gifted the Panthers two power plays late in the first period, and they capitalized on both. Sean Bergenheim's goal with just under four minutes remaining in the first gave them a way back into the game, but it was Jason Garrison's goal just eight seconds before intermission that gave Florida the momentum.
Mike Weaver tied the game just over two minutes into the third period, at which point Peter DeBoer made the jaw-dropping decision to bench future hall of fame goalie Martin Brodeur. Though Johan Hedberg would go on to make 13 saves in a solid performance, that gamble did not pay off. Petr Sykora went to the penalty box five minutes into the period for high sticking, which led to the game-winning power play goal by Brian Campbell.
The Devils put the puck in the net at the end of the second period, but they weren't awarded the goal. Steve Bernier was judged to have interfered with Clemmensen when the puck was put on net and the goal was waived off. New Jersey would go on to have the better of the play in the third period as they pushed for the tying goal, but the Panthers were excellent defensively and held out for a one-goal comeback win to take a 2-1 series lead.