SUNRISE, Fla.-- With fans waving red towels and Dan Marino dropping the ceremonial first puck, it had all the makings of a banner return to the playoffs for the Florida Panthers.
Just one problem. Friday's game began at 7 p.m., and the Panthers didn't show up until their usual starting time of 7:30 p.m at BankAtlantic Center.
The New Jersey Devils stunned the Panthers with three goals in the first 15 minutes. And that turned out to be enough for a 3-2 win in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
It was the first playoff game for Florida since 2000, and there was a buzz in the air at the start. But perhaps all of that got to the Panthers.
"There was a lot of electricity and energy, and that's something that we got excited about," Florida right wing Kris Versteeg said of the crowd of 19,119. "Maybe that was a little part of the start to our game too, maybe a little bit of nerves. Having a crowd like that come out here and do that for us, it was great, and maybe that...