The Florida Panthers haven't been to the playoffs in 12 years yet one thing remains the same: They can't beat the New Jersey Devils.
New Jersey, which swept the Panthers out of the 2000 postseason, beat Florida again on Friday as it opened the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 win at BankAtlantic Center to take home-ice advantage away from the Panthers.
The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period as they swarmed starter Jose Theodore with a Panthers postseason-record 26 shots in the frame.
Florida definitely looked like a team that was inexperienced in the postseason -- although that's not necessarily the case. The Panthers defense had the team's least playoff experience, however, and the Devils shredded it.
The Panthers really tightened things up in the second period and gave themselves a chance as Sean Bergenheim and Kris Versteeg scored to make it a one-goal affair. But the strong play of Martin Brodeur -- who is 5-0 against Florida in postseason games -- and a stingy defense by the Devils stifled the Panthers.
Game 2 of the series is Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers know they can't afford another slow start against the Devils -- or another loss.
"The next one is the biggest game and it goes from there," goalie Jose 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."