Through the first three games of their playoff series against New Jersey, the Florida Panthers’ power play enjoyed great success scoring against the league’s top-rated penalty kill.
Then Jason Garrison got hurt, and everything went south.
Okay, so that might be too simplistic an explanation — the Devils deserve some credit for going a perfect 6-for-6 on the PK — but the loss of Garrison was crucial. Just ask Panthers forward Stephen Weiss.
“We not only missed Jason on the power-play … we missed him, period,” he told NHL.com. “Not just on the power-play, but five-on-five and on the penalty kill, as well. He’s a big part of our team.”
Prior to Game 4, the Panthers PP was clicking an at absurd 60 percent clip thanks in large to Garrison, nicknamed “Boom Boom” because of his gigantic point shot. He finished second among all defensemen in power play goals (nine) this year — only Nashville’s Shea Weber had more — and was a big reason why Florida finished the regular season with the NHL’s seventh-best PP.
Losing Garrison also exposed Florida’s lack of depth on the blueline. Keaton Ellerby replaced him in the lineup, playing his first game since Mar. 15, and took a high-sticking penalty that led to New Jersey’s opening — and eventually game-winning — goal.
Ellerby then left the game midway through the second period after taking a hit from Devils forward Stephen Gionta, appearing to hurt his left leg on the play. The Panthers finished with just five defensemen with Brian Campbell playing over 27 minutes.