NEW JERSEY 3 FLORIDA 2 (2OT) (Devils win series 4-3)
The New Jersey Devils didn't make it easy on themselves, but they finally exorcised their first-round playoff demons Thursday night.
After blowing a two-goal third period lead, the Devils got a goal from rookie centre Adam Henrique 3: 47 into the second overtime to pull out a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals.
It was the second goal of the game for the 22-year-old Henrique, who beat goaltender Jose Theodore between the pads with a shot from between the circles.
With their second consecutive overtime victory, the Devils advanced to conference semifinals for the first time since 2007 after three consecutive firstround failures and missing the playoffs last season. They will take on the Philadelphia Flyers with the first two games of the best-of-seven series taking place in Philadelphia.
The day and time of Game 1 had not been announced.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur made 43 saves to improve to 6-4 in 10 career Game 7 starts.
It was the Devils' first double overtime in a Game 7 since they lost to the Rangers in the second overtime of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden.
The Devils led 2-0 after two periods on goals from Henrique and Stephen Gionta, but could not make it hold up in a frantic third period.
The Panthers had an apparent rebound goal from Tomas Fleischmann 1: 50 into the third period disallowed when referee Dan O'Rourke called Florida's Shawn Matthias for goaltender interference for running into Brodeur.
That non-goal loomed larger after Stephen Weiss scored a 4-on-3 power-play goal to cut the Devils lead to 2-1 at 5: 02. Defenseman Brian Campbell fed Weiss for a one-timer from the right circle that beat Brodeur over the left shoulder for Weiss' third. That was the eighth power-play goal of the series for Florida and got the crowd of 19,313, which had been quiet for much of the first two periods, back into the game.
The Devils appeared as if they might hang on and win in regulation until defenceman Marek Zidlicky was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass with just 3: 48 remaining.
Marcel Goc tied it with another power-goal goal with just 3: 28 left, firing a Sean Bergenheim rebound past Brodeur.
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