The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday night.
With a first-round at home playoff berth decided, the Lightning took the ice for the penultimate game of their regular season with a number of things still undecided. For one thing, who they'll play in the opening round of the postseason is completely undecided. Even more importantly, they remain very much alive in their quest to win the Atlantic Division. As they took on the Devils tonight, all the teams that have an impact on Tampa Bay's playoff schedule were in action tonight, playing important games.
"It's big. Obviously, we're chasing Montreal right now. The power play stepped up big for us tonight and we are going to need that going in to the playoffs." - Lightning goalie Ben Bishop
New Jersey got on the board first at 5:06 of the opening period, scoring only three seconds into a power play on a goal from Steve Bernier on an assist from Adam Henrique. Scott Gomez was credited with the secondary assist later.
The Lightning tied it at 6:26 on a goal from Tyler Johnson, getting assists from linemates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. They would be heard from again.
Tampa Bay took their first lead at 9:13 on the power play when Nikita Nesterov unleashed a slapper from just inside the blue line. He was assisted by Johnson and Kucherov.
The first period ended with the Lightning up 2-1. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators were on their way to beating the New York Rangers, 3-0, giving them control of their destiny.
New Jersey tied the game at 10:17 of the second with long-time Devils Stephen Gionta assisting Patrik Elias for the equalizer.
The Lightning pulled ahead again on another power play goal, this time by Steven Stamkos, getting helpers from Palat and Victor Hedman at 17:42.
Just 14 seconds later, before that goal could even be announced, the Devils tied it up again on Bernier's second goal of the game. Just like his first goal, the assists went to Henrique and Gomez.
The second period ended with the teams tied at three. At the same time, the Florida Panthers were on their way to beating the Boston Bruins 4-2, bringing the perennial contenders perilously close to elimination.
No goals were scored in the third, with both teams having to kill off late penalties to send the game to overtime. However, the Devils committed one foul too many, with Mark Fraser getting whistled for Tripping with :18 remaining, giving the Lightning a 4-on-3 to start the extra frame.
Johnson cashed in at 1:22 of overtime with his second goal of the night, once again getting assists from Kucherov and Palat.
"Yeah, I'm feeling good. It's tough when you watch hockey and I think I missed three games. At the same time it's kind of nice to have a break, especially at the end of the season. I feel like my body is in good shape right now and I'm really looking forward to the playoffs." - Johnson
Just a few minutes later, the Montreal Canadiens were dampening the Lightning buzz a tad, completing a come-from-behind overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings, keeping the Canadiens on top in the Atlantic.
The Lightning will play their final regular season game this Saturday when they host the Bruins.
- Lightning owner Jeff Vinik sat in section 307 with the Sticks Of Fire group, joining a sellout crowd of 19,204.
- Tonight was the Lightning's only win over New Jersey this season, concluding the season series with a 1-1-1 record.
- Hedman returned to the lineup after missing the last three games.
- The Lightning power play was three of eight on the night while the penalty kill was successful on two of three.
- This was Bishop's first game against New Jersey. Neither he nor Andrei Vasilevskiy had faced the Devils this season.
- Stamkos is now just two points shy of 500 for his career.
- The Lightning improve to 6-8 in overtime games this season.