The New Jersey Devils are now within 3 points of playoff spot going into a crucial game against the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night. A win and some outside help could pull the Devils to within 1 point of the last playoff spot by the end of the night.
Travis Zajac opened up his career night with a goal just 12 seconds into the game. It would be his 14th at the time. Jaromir Jagr recorded his first assist of the night along with Mark Fayne getting the second assist. About 9 minutes later, the Devils would make it 2-0 on Jaromir Jagr’s 24th goal of the season. Ryane Clowe fed Jaromir Jagr who put the puck top shelf to extend the lead.
Shortly after, Travis Zajac recorded his 2nd of the night on the powerplay. Zajac slapped home a rebound from Ryane Clowe to get his 15th of the season.
Florida would start to push back with under 3 minutes left in the first on Dimitri Kulikov’s 8th goal of the season. The shorthanded goal beat Martin Brodeur high and the Panthers went into the break with 1 goal on 4 shots.
50 seconds into the second period, the Panthers would cut the lead to 3-2 on a backhand shot by Brad Boyes. His 20th goal of the season also beat Brodeur high and Marty was clearly struggling up to this point.
At 3:05 of the 2nd period, Jagr and Zajac would take their turns assisting on a goal as Zajac gave a nice feed from right to left to Ryane Clowe who buried home the top-shelf shot in what is his 7th goal of the season. The 2-goal lead would be short-lived, however.
About 3 and a half minutes later, Brandon Pirri scored his 10th of the season on a tip through Brodeur’s 5-hole that cut the lead to 4-3 and spelled the end to Marty’s night. Brodeur was pulled after 6 saves on 9 shots.
After the game, Pete DeBoer mentioned that he did not blame Brodeur for the goals but wanted to give the team a wake-up call. Take that however you want.
At about 4 minutes into the third, Jacob Josefson joins the scoring for the New Jersey Devils this season with a shorthanded goal that is his first goal of the season.
At just under halfway through the third, Zajac finally completed his first hat trick of his career and the first one for the Devils since Ilya Kovalchuk did it on March 8th, 2012. It would be enough as Cory Schneider finished 13-for-13 in the relief effort. The win goes to Brodeur due to the Devils never relinquishing their lead.
Zajac and Jagr both finished with 4 points, 3 G 1 A and 1 G 3 A respectively. Ryane Clowe left the game early with an apparent head injury (here we go again) but had a goal and 2 assists when he left.
Tomorrow night’s game is just the next step in a potential playoff run that could become a clear reality if they successfully end the night only 1 point out of the last playoff spot.
1. Travis Zajac – 3 G, 1 A, 4 PTS, 6 SOG, +3, 1 Hit, 17:46 TOI
2. Jaromir Jagr – 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS, 3 SOG, +2, 14:22 TOI
3. Ryane Clowe – 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 3 SOG, +2, 9:30 TOI