Reporting Tim Kephart
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SUNRISE, Fla. (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers took their first step towards the Stanley Cup Sunday night when they finally won their first home playoff game in the last two decades. The Panthers playoff victory was the team’s first since April 17, 1997 against the New York Rangers, or 5,478 days.
Sunday’s rousing victory before a sellout crowd was the Panthers’ first playoff victory ever at the Bank Atlantic Center. The previous playoff victories were at the Miami arena.
The Panthers’ Stephen Weiss set a franchise playoff record with the fastest goal to start a game and a period when he put the biscuit in the basket just 23 seconds into the game against the New Jersey Devils and goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Weiss was only getting started as he became the first Panthers player to score two power-play goals in one playoff game. Weiss has played for the Panthers for ten years, or 637 games, before getting his first crack at the playoffs.
“Feels good,” Weiss said. “Obviously, these fans have been waiting a long time for this kind of hockey and this is a big win for us. Not the start we wanted in the third period, but this is a big win.”
Florida goalie Jose Theodore bounced back from a tough first period in game 1 to allow just two goals over the last five periods of playoff hockey against the Devils. Theodore stopped 23 of 25 shots against the Devils notching his first playoff win since he stopped 34 of 35 for the Colorado Avlanche in April 2008.
The victory on Sunday also guaranteed Panthers fans at least one more home game in the playoffs. The series is heading to New Jersey for the next two games and then game five will be played on Saturday at the Bank Atlantic Center.