By Jay Greenberg in Newark, N.J.
Devils forward Patrik Elias dangerously and frivolously tripped Panthers defenceman Erik Gudbranson on an icing, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Florida cashed to start its comeback.
Elias then practically completed that comeback with a what-was-he-thinking turnover off the half-wall that defenceman Mike Weaver had all night to convert.
So when the locker room opened of a Devils team that blew a 3-0 lead after 6:16 into a 4-3 loss after 60 minutes, a stricken Elias was seated at his bench, already impaled on his sword.
"I took an unnecessary penalty on their first goal," he said. "Then we were battling hard in our zone and I just threw it away.
"Just a stupid play by me at the wrong time. A couple of really bad decisions on my part tonight."
New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur left a rebound on a Scottie Upshall shot from outside the blue-line on that first goal, didn't move on the second one, then let in the first shot he saw in the second period before taking 25 minutes to make himself available after the game to take no responsibility for the loss at all.
"It was a controlled rebound, wanted to put it exactly there for my defenceman, most of the time it goes right around their stick," said Brodeur about the first goal.
"You get flat-footed and [Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim] was coming with a lot of speed."
Bergenheim roofed an excellent shot that never should have happened, starting that comeback just as much as had Elias's penalty. When Weaver cashed Elias's giveaway through a screen, Brodeur, not stopping a thing, got yanked deservedly even if the goalie made it obvious he didn't think so.
"You don't expect when you are not losing the game to get pulled," he said. "I don't know exactly what he was thinking, I'm sure it was a good reason."
Actually, Brodeur was making it clear he didn't think it was a good reason at all. Asked what had gone terribly wrong for the Devils he said it certainly wasn't the goaltending.
"We definitely got a little excited about having a 3-0 lead and got undisciplined," he said. "You don't want to give a team like that too much confidence knowing they can play us as good as they have played us so far.
"Our goals came in three periods. There's six periods we haven't done anything."
Thus it was all on the offence and on Anton Volchenkov, beaten by Bergenheim to that perfectly-placed clear. Nothing on the Teflon goalie, yanked from a playoff game for the first time in six years.
"We were up 3-0 and they pulled [Jose Theodore for Scott Clemmensen] as a momentum-changing tactic and it works for them," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. "[After] they get it back to 3-2 the first period was an opportunity for us to catch our breath and they score on the first shot of the second period.
"At that point I have to do my job and try to get momentum shift back in our direction."
Follow Jay Greenberg on Twitter @scribejg
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