Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals was not the first time Adam Henrique saved the New Jersey Devils' collective backside this season.
When top line center Travis Zajac injured his Achilles last summer, the Devils opened the 2011-12 season with a significant lineup hole. Henrique more than filled it — scoring 51 points while skating with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, earning a Calder Trophy nod.
In Game 6 against the Florida Panthers, Zajac scored an overtime goal to stave off elimination. In Game 7, his understudy propelled the Devils to the second round for the first time since 2007 with a 3-2 double-OT victory against the Panthers in Game 7.
Here's the game-winner, potted at 3:47 of the second OT:
The play began with Marty Brodeur acting as a third defenseman, firing the puck down the ice where it was tipped ahead by David Clarkson. The Panthers attempted a clear, but it was intercepted on the half boards by Alexei Ponikarovsky, who wrapped it back around. Clarkson played the puck again, and it deflected in the air towards the slot. Shawn Matthias of the Panthers backed off the puck as it was corralled by Henrique, facing three Panthers between himself and goalie Jose Theodore — but he had a shooting lane.
Henrique fired a low shot that beat Theodore, eliminating the Panthers.
It was Henrique's second goal of the game, having tipped home an Anton Volchenkov shot at 1:29 of the first period. Stephen Gionta made it 2-0 in the second period after a Panthers' defensive breakdown in front.
In the third period, the Cardiac Cats came alive. Stephen Weiss rocked a power-play goal past Brodeur at 5:02; Marcel Goc converted another power-play tally at 16:32, with Tomas Kopecky falling on Brodeur, to tie the game.
But that would be all Brodeur would allow in perhaps his best playoff performance in the last few postseasons.
Brodeur made 17 saves in the third period and another 12 in the first overtime, many of them difficult as the Panthers crashed his net all night. Sometimes he was very good, such as a game-saving stop on Shawn Matthias from point blank range; sometimes he got some quality help, like when Andy Greene's stickblade prevented an open net goal from the Panthers.
His 43-save performance, 11 days shy of his 40th birthday, was vintage: Aggressive, confident, working within the Devils system and bailing them out during lapses.
"It feels pretty good," said Brodeur on NBCSN after the game, "it feels pretty good that a young kid came in and scored two goals and we're really excited to be moving on."
The Devils move on to face their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, in the semifinals — along with the Rangers and Capitals in the other semifinal, it's a de facto Patrick Division reunion.
Brodeur made his NHL debut on March 26, 1992.
When Adam Henrique was 2 years old.
The two generations of New Jersey Devils hockey combined to extend their season on Thursday night; how far can they go?