Theodore, Panthers blank Devils to take 3-2 series lead
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) - Jose Theodore went from spectator to difference-maker in a span of 48 hours.
Theodore made 30 saves for his second career playoff shutout and the Florida Panthers posted a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Pulled six-plus minutes into Game 3, Theodore was relegated to backup as Scott Clemmensen made his first career postseason start in Thursday's Game 4, a 4-0 win by the Devils.
"At the other end of the ice, I think, for me that's Theo," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen. "That's what I expected out of him. He gets sat a game and he comes back. That's a true professional. That's what my full expectations is how he played tonight."
Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky scored for the Panthers, who can finish off the Devils Tuesday in New Jersey.
Florida is on the verge of its first series win since ousting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1996 Eastern Conference Final.
Martin Brodeur stopped 30 shots in defeat.
"It's not a fun situation to be in but I think we have to embrace it," said Brodeur. "We want to have the attitude of survival in our home and force it back here. We just have to play as hard as we can because these guys are going to try and take it away from us."
The Panthers turned up the pressure in the early stages of the second period. But Brodeur came up big with a pair of impressive stops.
First, he denied John Madden on a 2-on-1 rush with his former New Jersey teammate lifting the rebound into the protective netting. Brodeur then moved across the crease and made a blocker save on Sean Bergenheim's bid from in close.
Moments later, Bergenheim drew an interference penalty on Marek Zidlicky, and Florida converted on the subsequent power play as Versteeg beat Brodeur from the bottom of the left circle at the four-minute mark off a pass from Stephen Weiss.
The Panthers were 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 4's loss after going 6-for-10 with the man advantage in the first three games of this series.
They had a chance to extend their lead when New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus received a double-minor for high-sticking Erik Gudbranson at 13:23. Tomas Fleischmann made a move to the middle, but Brodeur managed to deny him with the poke check to keep it a one-goal game.
Upshall made it 2-0 at 13:17 of the third period. He started the play by dumping the puck behind the New Jersey net. Brodeur came out of his crease with the intention of playing the puck, but it slowed down before entering the trapezoid, which prohibited him from making contact. Brodeur ended out of position as a result, and Upshall put the puck into the yawning cage off a feed from Versteeg.
Gudbranson went off for roughing with 2:08 remaining and New Jersey pulled Brodeur to create a 6-on-4 advantage. But Kopecky sealed the win with an empty-net goal, one awarded to the Florida forward with 34 seconds left after he was hooked from behind by Ilya Kovalchuk while skating towards the vacated goal.
Florida defenseman Jason Garrison missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. His replacement, Tyson Strachan, made his NHL playoff debut...New Jersey was 0-for-3 on the power play.
04/22 00:07:27 ET