If the NHL’s Western Conference got its playoff semi-finals set in short order, the East is going to the max. Three of the four series will go to a Game 7 over the next two nights, the last of which was ensured when New Jersey beat Florida 3-2 in overtime to ensure this series takes its talent to South Beach one last time.
The Devils did everything they needed to do to win a hockey game. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each got involved in the offense, and the duo combined for nine shots. Kovalchuk scored off a power play early in the second period to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead. The team defense was in lockdown mode, limiting Florida to 16 shots. The importance of this can’t be overestimated. Goalie Martin Brodeur can’t put a team on his back at this late stage of his career, and in fact demonstrated that yesterday in allowing a pair of second-period goals, including one by Kris Versteeg that tied the game. New Jersey not only limited Brodeur’s exposure in terms of volume, but they played clean defense and Florida only got one power play chance.
It was all too much for a great effort by Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen, in for the injured Jose Theodore, to overcome. Nearly six minutes into the overtime session, Travis Zajac scored the game-winner on the Devils’ 39th shot of the night.
DO-OR-DIE STARTS TONIGHT
We’ve now got Washington-Boston, Ottawa-NY Rangers, and New Jersey-Florida set for Game 7 action. Tonight it’s the Capitals-Bruins in the Garden. The play of the goalies is still the overriding theme of this series, but in Game 5 the Caps were able to solve Boston veteran Tim Thomas, while the B’s finally got to young Braden Holtby in Game 6. Keys to watch tonight are the involvement of Alex Ovechkin in the Washington offense. Even when Ovechkin doesn’t score, his getting shots mean good things follow for Washington. The Bruins need to stay out of the power play—of course I mean allowing the Caps to play with a man advantage, but as lousy as their own 5-on-4 attack has been, it might as well go both ways. Boston is at its best in straight 5-on-5 play.