Cullen: Devils, Panthers headed for Game Seven

Scott Cullen

4/25/2012 10:26:48 AM

The New Jersey Devils dominated play in Game Six of their series against the Florida Panthers, but needed overtime to finish the job, a 3-2 win sending the series back to Florida for Game Seven.

Travis Zajac was the overtime scorer for the Devils and it's appropriate, given that he has been one of the Devils' top performers throughout the series. Zajac's goal gave him a team-leading six points (three goals, three assists) in the playoffs, matching his regular season total (accrued in 15 games).

New Jersey's first goal of the game was scored by Steve Bernier, his second of the series. It's quite something, from the Devils' perspective, that they have five goals combined from Zajac and Bernier in this series after they combined for three goals in the regular season (Zajac with two in 15 games, Bernier with one in 31). So it's not just Florida getting offensive contributions from unlikely sources.

The Devils also got a goal and an assist from a more expected source, Ilya Kovalchuk, who now has five points in six games in the series. Kovalchuk is also a team-worst minus-3 and has played 25:21 per game, more than any other forward in the postseason (New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is second at 23:09).

Former Devil, and current Panthers G Scott Clemmensen gave his team every chance to steal the win in Game Six, stopping 39 of 42 shots. Jose Theodore, who recorded a shutout in Game Five, was unavailable due to injury. As vague as that sounds, who knows if anyone but Clemmensen gets the call for the Panthers in Game Seven?

While New Jersey launched 42 shots on Clemmensen in the Florida net, the Panthers mustered a mere 16 shots on the New Jersey goal, yet tied the game when LW Sean Bergenheim put in a rebound off a four-on-two rush (that came under dubious circumstances after both Kovalchuk and Zach Parise were dumped on the previous Devils attack).

Bergenheim and Florida's other goal-scorer on the night, Kris Versteeg are tied for the team lead with three goals and five points in the series. It's quite something that Bergenheim, who scored a career-high 17 goals in the regular season, now has 12 goals in 22 career playoff games over the last two years.

So both teams go into Game Seven getting contributions from players that might not be at the top of the marquee, so that could be what determines the series.

The Devils have only held a decisive shots on goal advantage in Game One and Game Six, so if the shots are more balanced, as in Game Two through Five, then the series could be detrmined by which mucker and grinder comes up with a timely goal in Game Seven.

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