Travis Zajac ends 27-game goal drought with 4-point 1st period
Combines with linemates for 10 points in 6-3 win over Sens
The talk earlier this season around the New Jersey Devils was the emergence of Travis Zajac as a two-way threat under rookie head coach John Hynes.
Well, it was all about offence for the nine-year NHL veteran on Thursday night.
Zajac, who had only four multi-point performances in his first 39 games this season, scored his first goal in 28 contests and added three assists for a season-high four points, all in the first period, in an eventual 6-3 win over the visiting Ottawa Senators.
The 30-year-old centre had four points in his previous 11 games combined.
A Winnipeg native, Zajac ended the longest goal-scoring drought of his NHL career with 6:04 left in the first period when he slammed home a setup from rookie forward Joe Blandisi of Markham, Ont., to make it 4-0 Devils and chase Craig Anderson from the Ottawa net.
Per <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports">@EliasSports</a>: Travis Zajac (1-3—4) is 2nd in <a href="https://twitter.com/NJDevils">@NJDevils</a> history w/ 4 PTS in 1st period of a game (Patrik Elias: 1-3—4 on 12/20/00 vs DAL)—@PR_NHL
Zajac also drew an assist on Blandisi's first NHL goal, a power-play marker at 6:53. The line of Kyle Palmieri, Blandisi and Zajac combined for four goals and 10 points on the night.
Travis Zajac (<a href="https://twitter.com/NJDevils">@NJDevils</a>) had 1-3—4 in 1st period to become 1st player w/ 4 PTS in a period since 12/19/13 (Giroux:2-2—4 w/ PHI) <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports">@EliasSports</a>—@PR_NHL
Earlier this month, rookie Devils head coach John Hynes said Zajac's process in creating scoring chances was excellent.
'He plays with pride'
"He contributes in a ton of different ways to help us be a good hockey team and I appreciate the effort and the two-way game he has. He plays with pride," New Jersey general manager Ray Shero told nhl.com in early January.
After 40 games, Zajac is two points shy of last year's output of 25 over 74 contests. Two seasons ago, he had 18 goals and 48 points in 80 outings, a far cry from his most productive NHL campaign in 2009-10 when Zajac posted 25 goals and 67 points.
Zajac experienced a fast start to this season, scoring six goals and 11 points in his first 13 games but had managed only nine assists since a Nov. 6 victory over Chicago. Not exactly the production expected from someone drafted 20th overall in 2004.
In that 4-2 win over the Blackhawks, Zajac went head-to-head with Jonathan Toews, won 52 per cent of his faceoffs, had a goal and assist and limited the veteran centre to no shots on goal for the first time this season.
"He's a dual threat," Hynes told reporters after the game, speaking of Zajac. "He's playing against the other team's top lines and has defended a lot, but he also brings an offensive element where he's not only playing against the top units but scoring against them."