Devils top Panthers 3-2 in a double-OT Game 7

Associated Press Modified: April 27, 2012 at 12:32 am •  Published: April 27, 2012
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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Adam Henrique's first Game 7 was one he'll never forget.

The rookie scored his second goal of the game at 3:47 of the second overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers early Friday.

He skated out of the right circle and into the slot, getting goalie Jose Theodore to guess wrong. It sent New Jersey to Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference semifinal opener Sunday, and the resurgent Panthers home for the summer.

"Got a pretty good bounce," Henrique said. "Found myself alone and tried to get it on net."

Just like that, the Devils were winners of a postseason series for the first time since 2007. And with the game ending in the early hours of April 27, it marked the 20th anniversary of Martin Brodeur's first postseason appearance in goal for New Jersey.

Henrique doesn't remember Brodeur's debut. After all, he was only 2. But this night, that'll be unforgettable.

"Pretty cool, I guess," said Brodeur, who stopped 43 shots.

Stephen Gionta also scored in regulation for New Jersey, which wasted a 2-0 lead in the third period.

Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc scored third-period goals for the Panthers, and Theodore made 33 saves. The Panthers made a surprising run to the Southeast Division title this season, earning their first postseason berth in 12 years.

"This is not where the hockey people predicted us to be at the start of the year," Weiss said. "We did some good things. We're obviously disappointed not being able to move on. It's been a fun year. It's been a fun playoff in front of our fans."

The Panthers thought they were on the board 1:50 into the third period when Mike Weaver's shot from the right point got past Brodeur. Shawn Matthias was whistled for goaltender interference, nullifying the goal — and further firing up the already desperate Panthers.

"Yeah, they probably missed one on that one," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "But what are you going to do?"

Weiss cut the lead in half at 5:02 of the third, burying a one-timer from the right circle after a pass from Brian Campbell. The equalizer nearly came 3 minutes later, when Weiss had another shot blocked, Scottie Upshall nearly got his stick on the rebound — the Devils' Andy Greene tied him up just enough to thwart that chance — and Kris Versteeg's try was batted away.

Didn't matter. The Panthers kept coming. And with Marek Zidlicky in the penalty box for a delay of game call, Florida got the franchise's biggest goal in 16 years.

Shawn Bergenheim made a nifty move to get free for a shot that Brodeur stopped. The rebound rolled left, nearly on the goal line, and Goc knocked it home from an extremely tough angle to tie it at 2 with 3:28 left.

And to overtime they went.

"Exhausting," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "A fitting end to the series."

The Devils and Panthers played 11 games this season. New Jersey won six, Florida won five, and the Devils outscored the Panthers 29-28.

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