The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils by a score of 4-1 on Saturday evening at Amalie Arena.
The Bolts fell victim to yet another slow start, falling behind 1-0 yet again in a mostly forgettable first period. Of the slow start, Jon Cooper said, “It’s what keeps coaches up at night.”
There is something to be said about the way the team came back to steamroll the Devils in their third and final meeting of the regular season. But, according to Cooper, if the Lightning want to continue to be successful throughout the course of this long season, they must not fall behind the 8-ball as much as they have so early in the 2016-17 campaign.
Fortunately, the Bolts found their legs in the final 40 minutes of play, pouring a heavy shot total (35 SOG) on New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
Early in the game, the Bolts were forced to play without a defenseman when an unsuspecting Anton Stralman took a heavy hit into the boards from Devils forward Taylor Hall. Stralman would not return until midway through the second period, and his teammates would not let Hall off easy for the remainder of the game.
Stralman’s defensive abilities were certainly missed when Devils defender Damon Severson scored his second goal of the season off a turnover in Bolts territory. After making an initial stop on a cross-ice pass attempt, Ben Bishop saw the puck bounce into the open slot, where Severson was ready to take a slap shot into the back of the net. The goal, scored at 14:39, was assisted by Hall and Travis Zajac.
The Lightning showed signs of more life in the second period, getting on the board early with a fairly easy goal for Brian Boyle. The play began when Boyle took the puck behind the net in the offensive zone. After passing it to Victor Hedman, he set up in the right circle for a cross-ice pass that landed perfectly on the tape for an easy goal at 2:25 past Schneider. This assist was Hedman’s 187th, tying Dan Boyle for franchise record in number of assists by a defenseman.
Another goal was nearly added by Nikita Kucherov, who skated in alone on Schneider. However, the puck went off the crossbar and straight down onto the goal line. After a short review, it was determined the puck never completely crossed.
It seemed like a demoralizing moment for the Lightning, who had to be feeling good about themselves up to that point. But on the ensuing faceoff, Victor Hedman took a heavy blast from the point to make it 2-1. His unassisted goal came at 8:27. The Bolts went on to register a total of 21 shots in the second period.
The third period was more of the same for the Lightning, save for a few more strong pushes by the Devils offense. And at 5:01, there was a heartwarming moment for Bolts fans everywhere when Brayden Point finally broke through for his first goal of his young NHL career. It took all of about five seconds on the power play and came on a tip from a shot by Nikita Kucherov. Valtteri Filppula notched the second assist.
Cooper heaped praise on Point, saying, “No one deserved it more than he did.”
Kucherov gave the Lightning some insurance when he scored the fourth and final goal of the game at 14:14 of the third, with help from Steven Stamkos and Stralman.
The Lightning will try to carry the momentum from this resilient win when they travel to South Florida on Monday to take on the Panthers. Puck drop will be at 7:30. Don’t miss our game day coverage here at Raw Charge.
- The Lightning went 4/4 on the penalty kill.
- The power play, however, was mostly awful, only going 1/4.
- Hedman recorded 23:38 on the ice tonight.
- Bishop made 37 saves tonight.
- Hall was Public Enemy No. 1 after his heavy hit on Stralman.