Newark, NJ – Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of overtime, lifting New Jersey to a 3-2 decision over Florida in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Zajac was the recipient of a cross-ice pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, then took several strides up the left wing before unleashing a low wrister which hit the net on the far side.
Kovalchuk and Steve Bernier also tallied for the Devils, who forced a deciding Game 7 in south Florida on Thursday thanks in part to a 42-16 shot advantage.
Martin Brodeur did enough to keep his club alive, making 14 saves.
"We just kept going. We just did our thing and tried to throw as many pucks on (net) as possible," Brodeur said. "They're tough to play against. So when you win a game like that it's rewarding because you know you have to go through a lot to win."
Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim provided offense for the Panthers, who overcame a two-goal second-period deficit.
Scott Clemmensen played well in defeat, stopping 39 shots. He was pressed into service after normal starter Jose Theodore missed the morning skate with an undisclosed injury.
"We expected it to be a tight game. We were in position to win. ... It could have gone either way," Clemmensen said.
Bernier lit the lamp with 3:23 remaining in the first period, slipping a sharp-angle shot from the left of the Florida net through Clemmensen's pads.
Kovalchuk's redirection of a Zajac pass from atop the crease resulted in a power-play goal at 4:21 of the second period, but Versteeg halved Florida's deficit at 7:05 on a shot that changed direction off the outside of Alexei Ponikarovsky's skate.
Bergenheim tied the game at 12:49, as he picked up a Tyson Strachan rebound and stuffed it home inside the right post.
Florida survived a brief two-man disadvantage at the outset of the third period. Scottie Upshall was already serving a minor for roughing from the end of the second, when defenseman Brian Campbell cleared the puck all the way from his defensive zone into the crowd at the other end of the ice.
The Panthers couldn't click on a subsequent power play as Patrik Elias was sent off for tripping before the three-minute mark.
For Zajac, it was his second career overtime playoff marker...Florida won its only other Game 7, at Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals, a 3-1 win on June 1, 1996...New Jersey dropped its last Game 7, a 4-3 defeat to Carolina at home in the Eastern quarterfinals on April 28, 2009...Jacob Markstrom was called up from the American Hockey League to serve as Clemmensen's backup.