Anytime you go on the road for the first two games of a playoff series, a split is usually more than satisfactory.
But when you win the first one, as the New Jersey Devils did in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday night, a split is the last thing you want.
But after neglecting to start Game 2 until it wound up being too late, the Devils, 4-2 losers in Game 2, come home for Games 3 and 4 with the series tied at 1-1.
"I think we would have taken a split coming down here," coach Pete DeBoer said after Sunday night's loss. "There's no easy matchups in the NHL playoffs. I don't think anyone expected that anyone was going to beat anybody in four. We got a split. Now have to take care of business at home."
New Jersey, in a complete turnaround from Game 1, fell behind 3-0 and, like the Panthers in the opener, failed to make it all the way back. The Devils lost for the first time in their last eight games.
The normally disciplined Devils, who set the NHL record for penalty killing this season, weren't so disciplined and yielded two power play goals in Game 2, three in the first two games.
Defenseman Andy Greene went off 11 seconds into the game to lead to the first goal, and both left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky and right wing David Clarkson picked up penalties for hitting Erik Gudbrandson on a continuous play. The resulting 5-on-3 led to another goal.
Down 3-0, the Devils got goals 1:14 apart from center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk and still had 17:58 to complete the comeback. They had their chances but time ran out, with a buzzer-beating empty-net goal changing the score, as the Panthers scored the franchise's first playoff victory since April 17, 1997.
"Special teams were the difference in the first two periods. They get two power-play goals, put us in a hole," DeBoer said. "I thought they were the hungrier team in the first two periods. We can't play 20 minutes in the playoffs and expect to win.
"So we got to clean up the penalty troubles, offensive-zone penalties and be ready and prepared to play 60 minutes."