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Panthers Know They Haven't Won Anything Yet

Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:08 PM ET / News
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers Know They Haven\'t Won Anything Yet
The Panthers are excited to be one win from the franchise\'s first series victory since 1996, but the players know the fourth win remains the most difficult.
"The fourth one is generally the hardest one to win. It's going to be a resilient team on that side, and we've got to be resilient as well. We've got to want to win the game, but you also can't get too high from this one. We've just got to keep it going and be confident that we can win." - Kris Versteeg

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers find themselves one victory away from extending their memorable season and winning their first playoff series since 1996.

But there is no cause for celebration yet. The Panthers know putting away the New Jersey Devils won't be easy.

Florida takes a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 Tuesday at the Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN), where the teams split two games last week.

The Panthers rallied from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win 4-3 in Game 3 before the Devils recorded a 4-0 shutout victory in Game 4.

"It's going to be fun," said Scottie Upshall, who had one of Florida's goals in its 3-0 victory in Game 5 Saturday. "They're playing backs up against the wall. We know how hard they play in their building. It was a crazy atmosphere when we were there last week, and we're expecting nothing less than probably the hardest game of the series coming up."

The Panthers, who haven't won a playoff series since beating Pittsburgh in seven games in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, put themselves on the brink of advancing with a balanced and complete effort Saturday.

Last week, Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk stopped just short of saying the winner of Game 5 would go on to take the series, but the Panthers realize it's not that simple.

"The fourth one is generally the hardest one to win," said Kris Versteeg, the offensive star of Game 5 with the game-winning goal and an assist. "It's going to be a resilient team on that side, and we've got to be resilient as well. We've got to want to win the game, but you also can't get too high from this one. We've just got to keep it going and be confident that we can win."

Based on recent history, things would seem to bode well for the Panthers.

The Devils failed to win consecutive games in their last three playoff series and they'll have to break that streak to win this series. New Jersey also has a 2-5 record in series after being down 3-2.

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, however, says those numbers don't mean much.

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"I don't think that pertains to hockey as much as, say, other sports, like football," Campbell said. "They always talk about it in football. At the end of the day, teams change so much over the years. For us, I don't think those stats mean anything. If we don't go out and play one of our better games, we're not going to have success."

If the Devils win Game 6, the deciding Game 7 would be Thursday at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers' last two home games have produced playoff-record crowds for the franchise, and the fans have shown their enthusiasm and support by tossing plastic rats onto the ice, carrying on a tradition that dates to the 1995-96 season.

"It was so nice playing here in front of our home fans. What an electric atmosphere that was for us," Dineen said after Game 5. "But I sure would rather wait a few days before we have to come home and play another game."

For that to happen, the Panthers will have to avoid another slow start. Twice in this series, the Panthers have fallen behind 3-0 in the first period.

That's why Dineen is focusing on the start of the game, not a possible victorious ending.

"We look at the next game and the respect that we have for our opponent doesn't trend for me to look further than the first five minutes of that game," he said. "They've overwhelmed us a couple of games in a row at the start in New Jersey and we certainly have to be prepared for the start of that game.

"Obviously, let's not kid ourselves, you're up 3-2, you'd like to be able to finish it in six. No guarantees. We'll go out and we'll play our game and we'll let the chips fall."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jagr 72 15 26 -3 41
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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