I can’t think of a single player in the New Jersey Devils line-up that is more worthy of being a hero than Travis Zajac, especially after the season he’s had to battle through.
Zajac scored at 5:39 of overtime and New Jersey avoided elimination, setting the stage for an epic game 7 with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
The Devils center played just 15 regular season games after recovering from off-season Achilles surgery, but on Tuesday night he officially put that all behind him when a nifty pass from line mate Ilya Kovalchuk found him alone in front of the Panthers net.
Zajac’s quick wrist shot went through a stunned Scott Clemmensen sending a sold out Prudential center into a frenzy and prolonging the Devils season for at least one more game. It was Zajac’s third goal and sixth point of the series.
He leads all New Jersey forwards in scoring has been one of the Devils best and most consistent players in the series. Just seeing the elation on his face after the goal was enough to make you happy for him, even if you’re not a Devils fan.
This was perhaps the Devils best game of the series. New Jersey out shot Florida 42-16 and controlled most of the on-ice territory for long stretches of time. Had it not been for Clemmensen the game would have been decided by the end of the second period.
Steve Bernier got the Devils on the board first with his second goal of the series in the first period, while Kovalchuk extended New Jersey’s lead to 2-0 with his third goal of the series on a perfect feed from Zajac on the power play.
Kovalchuk is thought to be playing with an injury but he proved to be a warrior with a gutsy game 6 performance. He made me a believer again.
The only downside to the game was the Devils inability to hold the lead again. Having already blown a 3-0 lead in a the 4-3 game loss, they are going to have to find a way to get past these defensive lapses to win this series and beyond.
Game 7 will be in Florida on Thursday and the Panthers fans will be ready with rats in hand I’m sure.
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