However this season may play out, Travis Zajac vs the Florida Panthers on March 31, 2014 is going to be a game to highlight from the 2013/2014 season. Some nights, as a player, you get the bounces to go your way. Sometimes the puck is just drawn to you stick like metal to a magnet. Sometimes, the game just seems slower to you and you’re able to make those extra little moves with ease. When the Devils needed it most, these things happened to Travis Zajac.
I think for many, including myself, it’s a surprise to find that it’s Zajac that would get the Devils first hat-trick since Kovalchuk’s a little over two years ago. Zajac has been the recipient of many Jagr passes this season that didn’t find their way into the net. In fact you could add Zajac’s name to the list of disappointments this season because of his inability to finish all kinds of great chances on a regular basis. But not this night, this night he was the player we all want him to be.
Give the Devils credit. The took the ice against a team that is terrible at the start of games and took it to them. Within 12 minutes the Devils had a 3-0 lead and Zajac had a chance or two for the trick in the 1st period alone. Jagr snapped his scoreless slump with a goal and three assists. The Jagr/Zajac/Clowe line was really clicking until Clowe went down with an injury but the Ruutu came into that line and added an element of speed that the Devils don’t normally have.
I was a little surprised that DeBoer tapped Schneider on the shoulder to replace Broduer after watching the Panthers close the gap by a score of 4-3 but being that he gave up 3 goals on 9 shots, I probably shouldn’t be. This on the day that Marty seemed to announce that he’s not done playing and wants to test the FA market in July if NJ didn’t want him. Schneider did a great job in the relief effort and I think it’s just another example as to why the Devils need to stick with Cory Schneider the remainder of the way.
The one black mark on the game is the concern about Ryan Clowe. He’s extremely important to this team and what he adds to his line. Hopefully he’s ok but we will have to wait and see if he makes the trip to Buffalo tomorrow.
This win helps put the Islanders shootout loss in the review mirror. The Devils play Buffalo, Columbus plays Colorado, Washington plays Dallas and Toronto plays Calgary on Tuesday night. With a little luck, the Devils have a chance to move within 1 point of Columbus for that final Wild Card spot.