Big Story: The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Panthers on Friday at BankAtlantic Center. Center Patrik Elias scored on his 36th birthday and wingers Dainius Zubrus and Ryan Carter also connected as the Devils scored three times in the first period. Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg scored for the Panthers in the second, but Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made six of his 24 saves in the third to give his team the victory. The Devils have won seven in a row, counting the last six games of the regular season, and have given up only 10 goals in that span.
Devils: Brodeur recorded his 100th playoff victory on the night coach Pete DeBoer notched his first postseason triumph. DeBoer was coach of the Panthers the previous three seasons before joining the Devils last summer. Brodeur, who started his 171st consecutive playoff game, raised his record to 100-82. He's now 5-0 against Florida in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's great," DeBoer said. "Two milestones: my first and his 100th. That's a lot of wins. He's our backbone. He's the best ever and it's a great accomplishment. It's going to be hard to beat."
Panthers: The Panthers were able to rally to within one goal in the second when they tightened things up in their own end. Coach Kevin Dineen started Jose Theodore between the pipes and the veteran keeper, who allowed three goals on 26 shots in the first, finished the game with 35 stops. The Panthers know they can't afford another slow start.
"The next one is the biggest game and it goes from there," Theodore said. "You definitely don't want to go into their building down 2-0. We settled down in the second and it turned out to be too late. We have to be ready from the start."
Who's Hot: Versteeg scored his 12th playoff goal on Friday and now has 12 goals and 33 points in 51 career playoff games. … Brodeur has won six of New Jersey's last seven games, while allowing just nine goals.
Injury Report: For the Panthers, forwards Matt Bradley (concussion) and Jack Skille (shoulder) are out. … Defenseman Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) and center Jacob Josefson (wrist) are out for the Devils.
Stat Pack: Elias scored the 41st playoff goal of his NHL career on Friday, tying him with Teemu Selanne for eighth place among active players. Including the last five regular-season games, Elias now has a six-game point-scoring streak, during which he has two goals and nine points.
Puck Drop: "That's great for him," Brodeur said of DeBoer earning his first playoff victory on Friday. "I'm sure he'll get a lot more than me if he coaches like that. That's great, I think, for any kind of coach that it's his first postseason win and even for (Ilya Kovalchuk) that's his second (playoff) win, isn't it? It's kind of nice to be able to talk about these things. That means we were successful that night."