With the Panthers down 3-0 in the second in Game 1 against the Devils, Sean Bergenheim brought BankAtlantic Center to life -- and gave fans reason to believe in a comeback -- when his shot found the back of the net 7:33 into the period.
For the 28-year forward, it marked a continuation of where he left off during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Until last April, Bergenheim -- drafted 22nd overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Islanders -- hadn’t come near the sport’s postseason.
In his three full seasons with New York, he and the team finished last in the Atlantic Division. During the 2010 offseason, Bergenheim signed a one-year contract with the Lightning. He would play in a career-high 80 regular-season games while scoring 14 goals and adding 15 assists.
But it was during his long-awaited introduction to the playoffs that Bergenheim experienced his breakthrough.
He scored nine goals and recorded two assists in 16 games as Tampa Bay upset both the Penguins and Capitals.
It was the fourth-most goals scored that postseason by any player. Boston’s David Krejci, who tallied 12, notched that number in 25 games.
Thanks to Friday’s goal and Sunday’s assist, Bergenheim now has 13 points in 18 playoff games. When facing New Jersey in 27 regular-season games, he has 15 points in 27 regular-season games. which is the most against any team.
“I think last year he made a statement for himself and he carried that right into this series,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.
“He went through some injury problems early in the season, and we weren’t sure how that was going to play out.”
Over the offseason, Bergenheim signed a four-year deal with Florida as one of general manager Dale Tallon’s additions in a roster overhaul. Bergenheim netted a career-high 17 goals and six assists in 62 games.
His numbers might’ve been higher had he not been sidelined twice by injuries. In late December, Bergenheim missed 12 games with a groin strain. He also sat out seven others in late October with a lower-body injury.
“Since he’s been back he’s really not only been an offensive positive for us, but he’s also been a really energetic guy,” Dineen said. “He really adds to our lineup with that enthusiasm and physical play. He’s a guy to have around the puck, especially this time of year.”
-- The Panthers’ AHL team -- the San Antonio Rampage -- beat the Oklahoma City Barons 1-0 in the final regular-season game to clinch a Calder Cup playoffs berth for the first time since 2008.
Mark Cullen’s first-period goal from Bill Thomas and Bracken Kearns held up as the gamewinner.
The Rampage earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference with 87 points and will face the Chicago Wolves.
Goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom, who picked up his first shutout of the season, tweeted: “Great feeling to clinch at the last game for the @sarampage and great to get my first s/o in the rampage jersey n great fans Boys R #BUZZIN.”
Sunday’s scratches: Keaton Ellerby, Jack Skille, Mike Santorelli, Krystofer Barch and Jerred Smithson were Florida’s scratches for Game 2 against New Jersey.
History made: Stephen Weiss’ goal at 0:23 in the first set a Panthers franchise playoff record for fastest goal to start a period and game. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the fastest power-play goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs since Montreal’s Mats Naslund 0:18 on April 26, 1987.