If you're a Lightning fan, it's hard to imagine asking for anything and beyond what you got tonight. They played hard for 60 minutes. They outshot the opposition 32-23. They got three goals past the legendary Martin Brodeur. They didn't blow ANY of that lead. Ben Bishop got a shutout in the process of setting the franchise record for wins in a season. They were a perfect four-for-four on the penalty kill. Most importantly, regardless of outcome, this team looked like one that belongs in the postseason and could make some real noise if they get there. That's something none of us could say without tongues implanted in our cheeks for what seems like a really long time.
"I told the guys tonight in the room that the way we played tonight not only wins games in the regular season but it wins games in the playoffs." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
"It helps a lot. We have been playing well as of late and getting this win gives us confidence. This is the way we need to play." - Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula
The first period ended in a scoreless tie, although a physical tone was established. Sticks falling to the ice after collisions were a constant sight all evening.
Actually, the Lightning might have gotten a pretty big break in the first. A New Jersey goal was waved off at 5:01 when Dainius Zubrus was called for interference, although it appeared he was pushed into Bishop by Lightning defender Sami Salo.
At 11:19 of the second period, J.T. Brown failed to convert a penalty shot that he was awarded after being tripped on a breakaway attempt. It was yet another night when Brown did everything right except actually score a goal. One has to believe that eventually, he'll break that seal and it's going to be like a pinata with points just pouring out of him.
Just over a minute later at 12:26, B.J. Crombeen deflected Michael Kosta's shot to open the scoring with what would turn out to be the game-winning goal. Valtteri Filppula was credited with the secondary assist.
On a four-on-four at 16:58, Kostka scored with a backhander. Ondrej Palat and Filppula chipped in with helpers.
The period ended with the Lightning holding the 2-0 advantage.
Just over 20 minutes after Kostka gave the Lightning the seemingly-cursed two-goal lead, Nate Thompson pounded home an insurance marker on a pass from Brown to cap the night's scoring.
"We are watching the growth of Ben Bishop, he's picking up points for us. He's been that guy that lets up two or less all year. He's not shying away from it. You need your goaltender to stop the ones he should and to make that one big save. You want to be a starting goalie in this league, that's what you have to do." - Cooper
The Lightning will complete this current homestand on Monday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks. Afterward, they will visit Toronto, Ottawa and Pittsburgh before returning home to host Ottawa on March 24.
- This was the last of three regular season meetings between the Devils and Lightning this year and the only one played at the Forum.
- Coming into tonight's game, the Lightning had posted just one goal against New Jersey this season, losing 2-1 on October 29 and 3-0 on December 14.
- Bishop's 31st win of the season breaks the franchise record of 30, previously set by Nikolai Khabibulin during the 2002-03 season.
- Tyler (not Ryan) Johnson had a five game scoring streak (four goals and an assist) snapped.
- The Lightning honored Melissa Erickson as the 32nd Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period. Erickson, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the United Way. Erickson has always valued family and education, making it her mission to establish parents as an important leg in a child's education. Because of this drive, Erickson founded the Alliance for Public Schools Foundation to give a voice to parents on matters concerning Florida's educational system and landscape. Recently, Erickson has attempted to strengthen the student voice in similar situations through a student branch of the Alliance for Public Schools. Erickson has held many important educational leadership positions, including former president of the Hillsborough County Public Schools Parent Teacher Association as well as the only parent in the country on the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness. She has been recognized many times for her leadership in youth education, including receiving the Champion of Change from the White House in 2010.