New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer wouldn't acknowledge that Tuesday night's win over the Florida Panthers meant anything beyond two points in the standings.
But the players said they wanted to win one for their coach, who used to hold that job for Florida.
"We mentioned in here we wanted to get the win for Pete and just wanted to put a good effort in," Patrik Elias told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.
New Jersey achieved that goal, defeating the Panthers, 3-2, in a shootout tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. The win snapped a two-game losing streak against Florida, and gave the Devils a sweep of their Florida road trip.
Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead, putting New Jersey in an early hole. Kris Versteeg scored the game's first goal, capitalizing on sloppy play by the Devils for his 14th goal of the season. Adam Larsson sent a backhanded pass from behind is goal line to the slot area. Stephen Weiss intercepted the puck, cutting to the crease with no defensive pressure. Martin Brodeur went down to the ice, and Weiss sent a pass to Versteeg on the left side of the crease. He tapped the puck into a wide open net for the goal.
Versteeg struck again, scoring a shorthanded goal to stretch the lead to 2-0. The right wing poked the puck away from Henrik Tallinder at center ice and raced in alone on Brodeur. He snapped a wrist shot over the goalie's glove for his 15th goal of the year.
That was the ninth shorthanded goal allowed by New Jersey this year. They've allowed the most in the league this season, giving up four more than the three second place teams.
Just 55 seconds later, Elias helped get New Jersey back into the game. Ilya Kovalchuk held the puck below the goal line, sending a pass to a cutting Elias in the slot. The Devils center fired the puck past Jose Theodore for his 10th goal of the season.
Zach Parise tied the game, 2-2, at 7:40 of the third period. Tallinder fired a shot from the point that went wide of the net but caromed off the end boards. It bounced right to Parise at the right side of the net, and the Devils captain shot it quickly past Theodore for his 10th goal of the season.
The game remained time throughout regulation and overtime. The Devils, shooting first in the shootout, converted their first and last attempts to beat Florida. Kovalchuk scored in the first round, and Elias snapped the game-winning shootout goal through Theodore's legs. New Jersey improved to 9-1 overall in games decided after regulation, with a 7-1 record in the shootout.
Kovalchuk was impressed with his team's rebound after falling behind.
"We never gave up," Kovalchuk told Gulitti. "We have a lot of character in this room and we knew Pete, he wants to win so badly. We just want to do it for him."