newjerseydevils.com – The sixth time was a charm for the Devils against the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime.
Two nights after the Devils had suffered their fifth straight postseason overtime loss to the Hurricanes, Travis Zajac scored 4:58 into the extra session to ice a 3-2 victory in Sunday's Game 3 at Raleigh.
Zach Parise's shot deflected off Carolina's Anton Babchuk and came to Zajac at the left circle. Cam Ward stopped Zajac's initial try, but the Devils' center followed up his own rebound to bury the clincher under the crossbar.
It was New Jersey's first win in their last seven postseason trips to RBC Center dating back to 2001.
"There was a big sigh of relief in the dressing room," Zajac told MSG Plus.
Zajac's second career playoff tally gave the Devils a 2-1 series lead and restored New Jersey's home ice advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, which continues with Game 4 Tuesday at Carolina.
Parise scored for a third straight game (3g), while Brian Gionta struck for his first goal of the series. Zajac also had an assist.
Martin Brodeur made 28 stops for his 97th career postseason victory. Ward finished with 32 saves.
New Jersey's overtime attack found a rhythm in Game 3 that never came in Game 2, when Carolina had the only five shots in extra time, including Tim Gleason's winner.
"We wanted to play on our toes and create some pressure," Zajac said. "In the last seven minutes of the third period, we sat back and they took it to us a little. We can't give (Eric) Staal and (Erik) Cole that much time. In overtime we learned from Game 2 and just came out with an attitude that we were going to create our chances."
Without captain Jamie Langenbrunner (lower body) in the lineup, the Devils were victorious in the second of back-to-back overtime contests. The last time the Devils saw consecutive playoff games go to overtime was Game 3 and 4 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. They lost both times but went on to beat Anaheim for the franchise's third championship.
Langenbrunner leads all current Devils with four overtime winners in postseason play, but did not travel to Carolina and is listed as day-to-day. Brian Rolston filled in on the right side of Parise and Zajac and finished with three shots and a plus-2 rating.
"It's unfortunate to lose a leader and a captain like Jamie, who's been a sparkplug and who's had a heck of a year," Zajac said. "For Rollie to come in and play well and elevate his game is great. We didn't want to change our game much, we just wanted to continue cycling pucks. That's what our line does best."
New Jersey held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and both times Carolina rallied to tie. The teams headed to overtime following a scoreless third period.
Parise's 12th career playoff tally gave the Devils a lead in the first. New Jersey has gotten the first goal in all three games of the series.
Paul Martin shot the puck toward Parise in the slot for a nifty redirection through Ward at 6:04 of the opening frame.
"It was great forechecking by Rollie, he played really well for us tonight," Parise said. "I know Paul and I made eye contact right before he shot that puck, so it was a heads-up play by him."
Carolina evened the score just 31 seconds later, when Ryan Bayda notched his first postseason goal from the slot at 6:35.
Bayda later bloodied Bryce Salvador with a high stick and was slapped with a double-minor. The Devils couldn't convert, though, and went 0-for-3 with the man advantage in the period.
Gionta broke the 1-1 tie late in the first to send New Jersey into the first intermission with a lead. Brendan Shanahan chased Joe Corvo behind the Carolina net, and pressured the Hurricanes defender into turning over the puck to Gionta at the bottom of the left circle.
Gionta walked in on Ward and tucked his 18th postseason goal between the goal pads with 8.6 seconds remaining.
While still ahead 2-1 in the second period, the Devils killed off 52 seconds of a Hurricanes two-man advantage. But Carolina connected to even the score just one second after the teams were back at full strength.
Carolina's Matt Cullen won the draw in Devils' territory with six seconds left in Martin's hooking minor. Patrick Eaves wristed a shot from the left circle, and Chad LaRose tipped it by Brodeur for his first career postseason marker at 15:30.
NJD NOTES Bobby Holik was added to the lineup in Langenbrunner's absence and centered a line with Mike Rupp and David Clarkson. ... The Devils' power play was 0-for-4 and slipped to 1-for-14 in the series. ... New Jersey's PK was a perfect 0-for-5 on the night, and has limited the Carolina PP to one goal in 10 opportunities.
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NJD
2 - 2 Tie
1st OT Period
3 - 2 NJD
Hi stick - double minor
Interference - Goalkeeper