Zajac Has 3-Point Night as Devils Defeat Coyotes in OT

The Arizona Coyotes came into Newark boasting a young, dynamic lineup with such standouts as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi (son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi) and former Rangers prospect Anthony Duclair. While those young guns were able to get a point on the night for Arizona, ultimately it was the Devils who would prevail on the strength of a three-point night for one of their veterans.

Things got off to a slow start with nothing of note happening in the first period. Jordin Tootoo took exception to some of the Coyotes physical play and two seconds into the second period, would scrap with Kyle Chipchura. Tootoo’s fight gave the Devils their second in as many games and would wake up the teams and the crowd.

However, it would take until the final minutes of the period for any puck to reach the back of the net. Kyle Palmieri was called for interference against Ekman-Larsson at 18:51 and the Devils were set to go on the penalty kill. In a relatively penalty-filled game, the second was particularly whistle-laden.

With the Devils killing off the Palmieri interference penalty, Adam Larsson was able to spring Jacob Josefson who was joined by Travis Zajac for a two-on-one. Josefson fed Zajac, who deposited the puck behind Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith for a short-handed goal, the Devils’ first of the season and a 1-0 lead. This was the first time the Devils had led in a game during the young 2015-16 season.

The Coyotes would still have some time left on the power play as the third period started and a fresh sheet of ice. Martin Hanzal connected with Max Domi who was able to pass it to Anthony Duclair streaking across the slot and the Coyotes tied the game at one 47 seconds into the third. Palmieri’s penalty had broken a tie with a short-handed goal for the Devils and then tied it back up as it yielded a power play goal for Arizona.

Early in the third, the Devils would get into some penalty trouble thanks to Max Domi. Domi was able to draw a hooking call against Brian O’Neill and a tripping call against Andy Greene all within a span of about a minute and a half, putting Arizona on a 5-on-3 power play. The Devils would kill off both penalties and survive the Coyotes onslaught.

New Jersey would take the lead back less than seven minutes later when Zajac dropped the puck to Mike Cammalleri coming into the Coyotes’ zone and Cammalleri would snap it high over Smith’s blocker and the Devils took a 2-1 lead. It was Zajac’s second point of the night and he was not done yet.

With about a minute left in the game, Arizona coach Dave Tippett pulled Smith and the Yotes capitalized. Mikkel Boedker shot through a maze of players and the puck ended up ricocheting in off of Devils defenseman David Schlemko. With the game tied, the Devils would be headed to three-on-three overtime for the third consecutive game.

The game winner came when Adam Larsson was able to stand up the Coyotes puck carrier at the Devils blueline and create a three-on-one odd man rush for the Devils. Larsson’s pass to Lee Stempniak was mishandled and dribbled to Zajac on the far side of the Coyotes’ net. He quickly gathered and sent it back to Larsson who buried it in a wide open Arizona goal, as Smith had committed to Zajac.

Travis Zajac had gathered his third point of the night, finishing with two assists and a goal (and would be named the second star of the game) and the Devils had won their second straight. They had not had a multiple game winning streak since March of last season.

The game’s third star, Cory Schneider, was brilliant as usual, making 18 saves on the night and again keeping the Devils in the game when things looked bad for the team.

The Arizona Coyotes are a good, young team that has a definite chance to make the playoffs this year in the Western Conference. The Devils handled their young players well and were able to come through with the win. Now they need to continue to build on it. Next up they hit the road for a pair of games: going to Ottawa on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday.

These will be good tests for New Jersey, as Ottawa has been playing well and Buffalo, led by last year’s second-overall pick in the Draft, Jack Eichel, are a team not unlike Arizona. Hopefully for the Devils, they will be able to contain these opponents and corral their first win in regulation for John Hynes.

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