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DEVILS CRUISE TO MUCH-NEEDED WN: Panthers Take Lead, Still Lose 6-2 in Newark


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEWARK, N.J. -- It had been a while since the Panthers built a two-goal lead in a game so excuse them if they didn't know how to react.

On Saturday afternoon, the Panthers pounced on the host Devils by scoring twice off their first four shots of the game.

New Jersey answered those two goals a few times over, taking the lead for good in the second period before winning 6-2 at Prudential Center.

Although it looks as if the Panthers have given up, defenseman Brian Campbell says they have not. The team, he says, may not be fighting for a playoff spot but has plenty to play for.

"I would hope not, I know I haven't [quit],'' said Campbell, whose team has lost five straight and has been outscored 27-8 in the process.

"There are lot of guys playing for jobs here - and I'm not just talking about the young kids. You want to rise up, play more minutes. Some of the guys we have in the lineup, I don't think, have solidified their spot with their play.''

Coach Kevin Dineen spoke about his team's complacency in the wake of this season coming to a quick close. The Panthers are dead last in the entire league with 32 points with four games left.

Florida ends the 2013 season Saturday night in Tampa.

"It was very sloppy as we work toward Game No. 48,'' Dineen said. "Our commitment to defense has waned and hasn't been strong enough. We're too easy to play against. Hence, we've given up five, six goals throughout the road trip.''

With the win, the Devils kept their extremely slim playoff hopes alive.

New Jersey, which bounced the Panthers out of the opening round last year before losing in the Finals to Los Angeles, is six back of the Rangers with four games left and could have been eliminated had Florida's early lead held up.

Florida, meanwhile, at times looks like a team that would rather be anywhere else but on the ice.

On Saturday, defensive lapses and sloppy puck play helped lead to the attack on goalie Jacob Markstrom.

The Devils were being outshot 4-0 by the Panthers when Brian Campbell scored to make it 2-0 with 12:55 left in the first. New Jersey then scored five goals on 22 shots to take a 5-2 lead into the third.

By the time Darius Zubrus deflected Adam Larsson's shot in the third to make it 6-2, the Panthers had been outshot 32-9 and outscored 6-0 during that span.

"They started coming back halfway through the first and we made way too many mistakes,'' said Marcel Goc, who scored 6:11 in to give Florida its first 1-0 lead since April 2. "That's a very good team that plays structured, keeps coming at you. We need to play like that. We need to stay the course.''