NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils are still alive in the Stanley Cup chase because of a player who spent most of the season off the ice working his way back from an Achilles tendon injury.
Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of overtime, and the Devils avoided elimination and sent yet another Eastern Conference first-round series to a seventh game with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
“It’s fun to be back competing and playing at this time of year,” said Zajac whose season was limited to 15 regular-season games because of an Achilles injury in August that required surgery.
“When you have a setback, you never know what’s going to happen. As I went through the process again, I felt better and better. It was just about being patient. I knew I would be back at some time in the new year. I was able to get a few games in and prepare for the playoffs.”
The Devils will be playing in a Game 7 in Florida on Thursday because Zajac scored his biggest goal of the season on a counterattack against Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen.
Zajac cleared the puck from in front of a harried Martin Brodeur and started a rush up the ice. Zach Parise took his cross-ice pass and gave the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk, who found Zajac skating down the left wing for a shot along the ice into the net.