RALEIGH, N.C. -- How tight is this best-of-seven series between the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes?
So tight that the only time the 'Canes have been ahead was when Tim Gleason scored in overtime at the Prudential Center on Friday night.
On Sunday night at the RBC Center, three periods again wasn't enough for these evenly-matched squads. But the Devils finally ended their overtime playoff hex against Carolina in Game 3, as Travis Zajac beat Cam Ward at 4:58 of the extra session to give New Jersey a 2-1 series lead with a 3-2 victory.
"It is a real tough series," Devils forward Brian Rolston said. "This is a good hockey team. They won the Stanley Cup not long ago here. They've got great goaltending. They've got a lot of good players over there. We feel good about getting the win tonight, but you try to stay right in the middle and be prepared for the next game because they're a great hockey team."
Each team has responded in this series, and that didn't change on Sunday. After the Devils outshot Carolina 13-9 in the second period, the Hurricanes had New Jersey on its heels for a large portion of the third and outshot the Devils 11-8. Eric Staal nearly gave Carolina the lead late in regulation, only to see his wrist shot from the slot sail wide of the net.
Incredibly, though, the Hurricanes took one of the first three games in this series despite never having a lead in regulation.
"We'd love to try that," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said wryly. "These are tight games. When you play New Jersey, it's going to be like that. There's going to be parts of your game you're not excited about."
The Hurricanes certainly weren't excited afterwards, knowing they worked so hard in New Jersey to earn a split and ultimately gain home-ice advantage in the series. But that went out the window once Zajac put his own rebound past Ward in overtime. Should this series go the distance, each team will have two games remaining in its own rink.
"I think everyone knew coming in that it was going to be a tough series," Devils forward Zach Parise said. "After that tough loss in Game 2, for us to come back and get that first road win, it was great."