The New Jersey Devils were able to keep their season alive with an overtime win on Tuesday. Tonight, the Devils will try to claim this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, as they visit the Florida Panthers for a decisive Game 7 at BankAtlantic Center.
The sixth-seeded Devils have already faced an elimination game in this series, taking Tuesday's Game 6 in overtime to tie the set a three wins apiece and force this evening's final battle.
Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of overtime, lifting New Jersey to a 3-2 decision in Game 6. Zajac was the recipient of a cross-ice pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, then took several strides up the left wing before beating Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen with a low wrister.
Kovalchuk and Steve Bernier also tallied for the Devils, who outshot Florida by a 42-16 margin in the game.
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 to force OT.
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.
It's unclear if Theodore will be able to return to his starting role tonight or if Clemmensen will get the call instead. Jacob Markstrom was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to serve as Clemmensen's backup in Game 6.
Florida defenseman Jason Garrison has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight.
The Devils are 6-7 all-time in Game 7s and Brodeur has played in nine of those 12 games, posting a 5-4 mark along the way. New Jersey dropped its last Game 7, a 4-3 defeat to Carolina at home in the Eastern quarterfinals on April 28, 2009.
Florida won its only Game 7, beating the Penguins in Pittsburgh to claim the 1996 Eastern Conference title.
The Panthers are 2-1 at home in this series after posting a 21-9-11 at BankAtlantic Center during the regular season. New Jersey had a solid 24-15-2 record as the guest in 2011-12.