There's something about Marty.
Legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur made 33 saves to secure the 124th shutout of his career and the New Jersey Devils got goals from Damien Brunner and Dainius Zubrus (who scored a pair) for a 3-0 victory in Newark. Brodeur, in spite of a .905 save percentage on the season (good for 36th among qualifying goalies) was once again brilliant versus the Lightning, who carried play throughout much of the evening but failed to put anything into the net.
The first period was played cautiously by both sides, perhaps for the Lightning with some acknowledgement of their back-to-back situation as they will face the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night in Detroit and look to get off a bad road streak (1-5-2 away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum since Steven Stamkos broke his tibia). The first ended with the shots favoring the Devils 7-6, as the game didn't really open up until the second period.
From the middle frame on, the Lightning were in control of the puck, outshooting the Devils 14-5 in the second and 13-7 in the third but failing to find twine in spite of a handful of terrific scoring chances. Damien Brunner opened the scoring on a breakaway up the middle after a nice feed from rookie defender Eric Gelinas, who split the Lightning defense with a long stretch pass while the Bolts were in the midst of a change. That sprung Brunner who made a nice move in tight on goaltender Anders Lindback to create the 1-0 advantage despite the shot disparity favoring the visitors.
The Devils would later extend their lead to 2-0 in the third after an ill-advised no-look drop pass by Eric Brewer behind his own net ended up with Jaromir Jagr, who hesitated before finding Zubrus right in front of Lindback for a tap-in goal.
Zubrus would add a second tally later in the third off a rebound of a Jagr shot on another poor defensive play where Jagr somehow slipped behind all five Lightning defenders and was able to move in all alone on Lindback, resulting in a scramble play that the Lightning lost. While Zubrus' put-back shot wasn't the prettiest one you'll see, the fault definitely lies more with what was again suspect defense moreso than the play of Anders Lindback. That said, the gap between him and Ben Bishop has been big enough to drive a handful of zambonis through, and they're playing behind the exact same defense. For whatever reason, Bishop is finding a way to make big saves on good scoring chances for the opponents while Lindback simply is not.
- With Victor Hedman out and still nursing an upper-body injury, Jon Cooper leaned heavily on the pairing of Radko Gudas and Matt Carle, who both played over 24 minutes, trailing only New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene for the game.
- The Lightning held the Devils to just 19 shots on the night while firing 33 of their own for a significant puck possession advantage; unfortunately, as noted by Jon Cooper in the post-game presser, it was a night where more chances didn't necessarily mean more goals, as the Devils capitalized on the opportunities they did get and the Bolts did not.
- Jon Cooper was surprisingly aggressive with his decision to pull Lindback with over 4 minutes remaining in the game and facing a 3-0 deficit, but there's some research to suggest that this tactic is one that has more upside than downside in that particular situation, and it's good to see Cooper still trying to win the game even when it seems out of reach.
- The Lightning failed to convert on any of their three power plays and remain in an impressive rut in terms of special teams futility.
- The Lightning nearly doubled their shot total from the last match-up with the Devils -- after managing just 17 shots in October, they put 33 on Martin Brodeur tonight. Take that as a silver lining if you must have one.
- Further to that point, the shot advantage also spelled a significant puck possession for the Bolts, who ended up with more than 60% of all the unblocked shot attempts taken on the night. Much of that advantage was built before the game was decided. As expected, the Lightning actually possessed the puck better after both the first and second Devils goals, but then fell off a cliff after the third marker put the game out of reach.
- Arguably the best trio for the Lightning tonight was that of J.T. Brown, Nate Thompson, and Nikita Kucherov, who were generating good looks all night and finished the game with 11 total shots on goal between them. Getting into more of a shooting mentality is something that has been repeatedly stressed for the Bolts, and tonight's shutout loss only further highlights the need to shoot more pucks, whenever possible.
- All three players also led the Lightning (and the game) in terms of Fenwick For % (unblocked shot attempt differential). Brown finished 75.0%, Kucherov at 70.4%, and Thompson at 69.2%. So while the goals didn't come tonight, if you give that line 11 shots on goal and close to 70% of all shot attempts while they're on the ice you're going to score a lot more than you're going to allow over the long run.