Coming into Sunday’s games against the New Jersey Devils, the Tampa Bay Lightning had never won eleven games in a row in franchise history. Following the game, they still haven’t. Facing a Devils team that had fired their general manager hours before the game and a goaltender they had discarded for a conditional late round pick, the Lightning could only muster one goal in sixty minute of play and lost 3-1 to the Devils.
Louis Domingue, who spent the first part of the season in limbo with the Lightning, stopped 26 of 27 shots that he faced, including a breakaway from Steven Stamkos, to pick up the win. Curtis McElhinney, his replacement as Tampa Bay’s back-up netminder, was almost as sharp as he made 17 saves on 19 shots.
With both teams playing for the second night in a row, you could expect the game to be a little sluggish to begin with. Surprisingly the Lightning played fairly crisp generating a lot of zone time (especially Steven Stamkos’ line) and fired twelve shots at the New Jersey goal. Domingue, in his first start against his former team, was up to the challenge and turned all twelve aside.
On the other end of the ice New Jersey had ten shots of their own. Which sounds pretty good until you dig into the numbers and see that eight of those shots came on three power plays. The Lightning penalty kill was sharper than a fresh pressed guayabera and kept the scoreboard clean for the first twenty minutes.
The Lightning did better at staying out of the penalty box in the second period, waiting until the last minute to commit an infraction. Unfortunately, they surrendered two goals at even strength during the middle frame while only finding the back of the net once.
Tyler Johnson wasted no time as he scored thirty seconds into the period. Victor Hedman made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone (roughly the 458th time he’s done that in a Lightning uniform) and fed Johnson in front of the net. TJ had plenty of time pick out a spot and he put the puck off of Domingue’s arm and into the net. For the undrafted Johnson, the goal marked his 150th in the NHL, all with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After that, New Jersey found their stride and beat McElhinney twice. The first shot was a blast from noted goal scorer Andy Greene (just kidding, it was his first goal of the year). He took a drop pass from Miles Wood and launched a shot that snuck past McElhinney’s skate and the far post. If the Lightning goalie had longer legs he would have made the save.
That ended the Lightning’s shutout streak at 169 minutes and 05 seconds. Their next goalless streak was a bit shorter as Travis Zajac made a nifty between-the-legs redirection that crossed McElhinney up and gave the Devils a 2-1 lead.
Entering the final period behind by a goal, the Lightning did have moments of life where it looked like they would find the equalizer. Domingue was at his best stopping Steven Stamkos on a breakaway. The Lightning captain tried to lift a backhander in close, but was denied. Domingue added insult to injury by also stopping a follow-up shot by Anthony Cirelli.
As the minutes ticked off the clock, Nikita Kucherov had a golden opportunity from between the circles. He caught the puck cleanly and blistered it on net, but Domingue swallowed it up and didn’t allow a rebound.
Former Bolt Nikita Gusev appeared to extract his own bit of revenge for the team that traded him as he scored a nifty stickhandling goal, but it was waived off after a review determined Blake Coleman interfered with McElhinney prior to the shot. New Jersey did get that elusive third goal with .9 seconds left on the clock as Miles Wood deposited the puck into an empty net. Can’t have a goal waived off for goaltender interference if there’ no goaltender in the net.
The Lightning look to start a new winning streak back at home as they take on the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Tyler Johnson (Victor Hedman): 1-0 Tampa Bay
Andy Green (Miles Wood, Jack Hughes): Tied 1-1
Travis Zajec (Nikita Gusev, ): 2-1 New Jersey
Miles Wood (Wayne Simmonds, Andy Greene) Empty Net: 3-1 New Jersey
Sorry, boring empty net goals don’t get a highlight.