At 5:39 of overtime, the top line of the New Jersey Devils made a play, and sent this first-round series against the Florida Panthers to a Game 7 on Thursday night:
The play began with another shaky Marty Brodeur save — one of only 14 on the night — before Travis Zajac pulled the puck away from the Devils' crease. He sent a pass that missed Zach Parise on the left wing, but the Devils captain doubled-back to chop it ahead to Ilya Kovalchuk.
The neutral zone misfire proved beneficial as Kovalchuk and Zajac entered the Panthers' zone 2-on-2 before Kovalchuk attracted the defenders, anticipating a shot. Instead, he slipped a pass between Dmitry Kulikov and a trailing Kris Versteeg to Zajac, who buried a shot through the 5-hole of his ex-teammate Scott Clemmensen for the 3-2 win.
It was … not exactly the prettiest game.
Or the most exciting game. Remember the Penguins and Flyers. This is the antithesis.
The Devils slept-walked through much of it, despite peppering Clemmensen with 42 shots. The Panthers mounted little offense, save for two soft goals against Brodeur in the second period by Versteeg and playoff hero Sean Bergenheim.
Steve Bernier and Kovalchuk had the Devils goals.
So the action, such as it is, returns to Sunrise on Thursday, as the Panthers head home to try and win a playoff series for the first time since 1996 in front of their rat-chucking fans. And, of course, those Devils supporter sleeper agents trying to get the Panthers penalized. Them too.
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