It is the point in the season in which the New Jersey Devils have their backs pushed to the wall, their playoff hopes hanging by a few threads.
They know that every game is now extremely crucial this late into the season and can really only afford one more loss during the rest of the regular season.
The Devils certainly entered the game with that type of mentality on Monday night as they smashed the Florida Panthers 6-3. It was an impressive showing for New Jersey as they ranked 26 in the NHL in goals per game entering the game. Their six goals were their most since they put up a six spot against the New York Islanders on March 1 and is only the third time they reached that goal total this entire season.
A lot of the credit for this offensive outburst can be given to Travis Zajac as he was an absolute machine for the Devils, recording his first career hat-trick and adding an assist for an explosive four point night. It is these type of breakout performances that New Jersey needs from their players if they want to make the playoffs in 2014.
The Devils did exactly what they needed to do tonight as they handily defeated an inferior team (Florida had 15 less points entering tonight’s contest) and they will have similar opportunities to duplicate tonight’s success. Out of their seven remaining games, only one of them is against a team that is currently in a playoff position. New Jersey can go on a serious push to reach the playoffs, the only question will be whether it will be enough to grab that coveted eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The fight to the playoffs might be extremely difficult for New Jersey here on out, but at least right now it looks like they are going to go down swinging.