NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — During the course of a season, New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer draws up hundreds of faceoff plays in practice or on the bench.
"Rarely do they work," DeBoer said. "Either you lose the draw or you don't get a bounce."
The unexpected happened Saturday night.
Marek Zidlicky scored with 2.1 seconds showing on the overtime clock after a late timeout by DeBoer and a faceoff win by Travis Zajac to lift the Devils to a stirring 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Jaromir Jagr also played a big part in the win, nudging the faceoff win with just over three seconds to play to Zidlicky at the top of the right circle for a shot into the top corner of the net past Tim Thomas.
"Pete drew it up, that if I can get it to Jags, he was going to slide it to Zid for a one-timer," Zajac said. "What you saw was what he wanted us to do. Everyone executed their part. It was the perfect setup, really. I was lucky."
Zidlicky was perfect with his shot for his eighth goal of the season, the one that helped New Jersey avoid a shootout. The Devils have lost their last 10 shootouts, one shy of the NHL record recently set by Detroit.
"That was a great draw, and a great pass. That's where it all started ... and I just took the shot," Zidlicky said after the Devils finished a 2-0-1 homestand. "That was the perfect setup for us. We try it all the time, and a lot of times it doesn't work. Tonight, it did."
Jagr joked that he never got a chance to congratulate Zidlicky because his Czech countryman skated away to hog the glory. The play was good, though.
"Just go take a look at the board over there," Jagr said. "It happened just the way we drew it up. It'll probably never happen that way again. It happened exactly the way we wanted to do it. The key was the faceoff. It started with Travis."
Jagr earned his 1,724th NHL point, moving him ahead of former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux and into seventh place on the league's career scoring list.
Panthers coach Peter Horaceck was more disappointed with his team for its overall play in the game rather than the late goal, which he said was a great shot.
"It wasn't very good," he said. "We didn't deserve anything, and we got a point for something we didn't deserve. We didn't play very well. They outplayed us most of the game."
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