Devils fall to Panthers, 5-3, in first game since Lindy Ruff firing

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Nick Cousins had two goals and the Florida Panthers beat New Jersey 5-3 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight win, spoiling the debut of interim Devils coach Travis Green.

Eetu Luostarinen, Evan Rodrigues and Sam Reinhart also scored as the Panthers won for the 12th time in 13 games. Florida leads the NHL with 43 wins and 90 points, and it is 25-4-2 since Dec. 23.

Anthony Stolarz made 22 saves, giving 35-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky a night off after a big performance in a win over the Rangers on Monday.

Jack Hughes, Timo Meier and Colin Miller scored for the Devils in their first game since general manager Tom Fitzgerald relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties on Monday. The move was made less than a year after Ruff led New Jersey to its best regular-season point total.

New Jersey goaltender Akira Schmid made 26 saves. He relieved Nico Daws in losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles last weekend.

Cousins was the difference. He opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season 2:54 into the first period. He made it 4-2 when he reached back to tip a shot home 5:33 into the third.

Luostarinen had snapped a 2-all tie midway through the second with a shot from the top of the circle that Schmid seemed to miss.

The Devils got off to a slow start. They fell behind 2-0 in the opening 6:30 as Cousins tallied and Rodrigues followed with a power-play goal after Luke Hughes was called for delay of game.

Jack Hughes got the Devils going with a somewhat lucky power-play goal. His shot was tipped past Stolarz by Florida defenseman Gustav Forsling.

Meier tied the game with a great individual play at 11:01 of a second period dominated by New Jersey. The big forward outdueled two Panthers for the puck in front of the net, kicked it to his stick and one-handed it past Stolarz.

A little more than a minute later Luostarinen took a stretch pass from defenseman Dmitry Kulikov at the blue line, cut to the middle and beat Schmid with a shot from top of the right circle for his 11th goal.

Referee Pierre Lambert left the ice for a couple of minutes in the second period after being hit with a deflected shot in the chest area. He returned before the period was over.


Panthers: Return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday

Devils: Host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday