Zajac downs ’Canes in OT

Travis Zajac fired a critical shot off Carolina goalie Cam Ward’s pads, and it came right back to the New Jersey forward.

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) looks back at the game-winning goal shot by New Jersey Devils' Travis Zajac

Devils 3 Hurricanes 2 (OT)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Travis Zajac fired a critical shot off Carolina goalie Cam Ward’s pads, and it came right back to the New Jersey forward.

Home-ice advantage bounced back to the Devils just as quickly.

Zajac scored off his own rebound at 4:58 of overtime, and New Jersey beat Carolina 3-2 on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference playoff series.

Zach Parise scored for the third straight game and assisted on Zajac’s winner for the Devils, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series by turning the tables on the Hurricanes. After all, it was just two nights earlier that Carolina turned up its intensity in overtime and briefly put itself in control after its stunner in New Jersey.

“We know how we need to play and how we want to play. When we play that way, it’s a lot more fun for the players,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said.

“They won a game in our building — obviously, we were going to have to come here and get that one back. It’s nice to get it back with your first game. Now, we can get focused for Game 4 and see what happens.”

That’s set for Tuesday night in Raleigh, and with Parise and Zajac looking right at home while skating alongside new linemate Brian Rolston — who subbed for the injured Jamie Langenbrunner — the Devils don’t seem to be missing a beat without their captain.

Their reconfigured No. 1 line generated two goals, including the one that was most significant.

Parise started the decisive sequence by attempting to throw the puck toward Rolston, but it clicked off Anton Babchuk’s skate and to Zajac in the slot. Ward stopped Zajac’s wrist shot with his pads, but Zajac followed by flipping it high past the Carolina goalie for his second career playoff goal.

“The puck bounced out to me and I got a couple of good whacks at it,” Zajac said.

Brian Gionta added a goal, Zajac assisted on Parise’s goal, and Martin Brodeur stopped 28 shots for the Devils. They improved to 1-5 against the Hurricanes in overtime playoff games and have yet to trail in regulation in the series.

Referring to his team taking a lead in regulation, Carolina coach Paul Maurice deadpanned: “We’d love to try that.”

Ryan Bayda and Chad LaRose scored their first career playoff goals, and Ward finished with 32 saves for Carolina.

“It’s why you play seven games,” LaRose said. “We didn’t think it was going to be easy.”

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