New Jersey forces decisive Game 7

New Jersey 3, Florida 2 (OT)
New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates after scoring against Florida during the second period Tuesday.

NEWARK, N.J. — Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of overtime and the New Jersey 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.

Steve Bernier and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored and Martin Brodeur made 14 saves for New Jersey, which squandered a two-goal lead and had fans dreading another first-round playoff exit until Zajac scored from the right hand circle.

The shot beat Scott Clem­mensen to the lower corner and set off a mob scene on the ice.

Clemmensen was outstanding, stopping 39 shots in an emergency start for the injured Jose Theodore. Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergen­heim tallied for Florida, which was looking for its first series win since 1996.

Game 7 will be played in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday.

Two other series in the conference are also headed to Game 7s. Washington will be at second-seeded Boston tonight and Ottawa will be at the top-seeded Rangers on Thursday.

The Panthers had a chan­ce in a scramble in front of Brodeur just before Zajac’s goal. However, Zajac pulled the puck away from the crease and led a rush up ice. Zach Parise took his cross-ice pass and gave the puck to Kovalchuk, who found Zajac skating down the right wing for a shot along the ice into the net.

The Devils outshot Florida 42-16 in a game played before a sellout crowd.

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