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Devils penalty kill goes from historically good to disturbingly bad

Apr 17, 2012, 10:21 PM EDT

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During the 2011-12 regular season, the New Jersey Devils penalty kill led the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals and stopped a league-record 89.6 percent of the opportunities they faced. If you’re the type to actually take the time to make “best penalty kill ever” lists, they’d have to be up there. Yet that regular season success should make their work against the Florida Panthers that much more disturbing: it’s a big reason the Devils find themselves down 2-1 in the series.

The Panthers started off Game 1 modestly enough, going 1-for-3. Things picked up quite a bit in Game 2, however, as Florida scored two out of its three goals on the PP (2-for-4). Tuesday presented the most startling example, however, as the Panthers connected on all three man advantages, pushing the series total to a startling 6-for-10.

So, the question is: why?

There are a few possible reasons. Perhaps Martin Brodeur has been especially soft in 5-on-4 and 4-on-3 situations. The Panthers might not be amongst the league’s best in many categories, but “power play defensemen” is an obvious strength – and not just in Brian Campbell. Maybe Kevin Dineen deserves some credit for scheming against the Devils given the concentrated nature of playoff action.

Whatever the reason may be, the Devils need to figure things out quickly or the Panthers might complete a weird accomplishment: being a third seed that upsets a sixth seed.

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