Game 30: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning

The New Jersey Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.

In a season marked so far by consistent inconsistency, the Tampa Bay Lightning have struggled to learn the lesson that anything less than a full 60 minutes of effort is not likely to yield anything but disappointment. Tonight, rather than come out fast and furious before running out of steam late, which has been a recent and ongoing trend, they started out in low gear and found themselves in a deep hole early on. In spite of coming on strong as the game progressed, the end result was a collection of efforts that just didn't quite add up to good enough to win.

"If it's not defense, it's the offense. If it's not the offense, it's the defense. Or it's the special teams. You can't be awful in certain areas and expect to win. You have to be at least average or solid in each and excel in others to give yourselves a chance to win." - Steven Stamkos

Dwayne Roloson made his first start in net since losing to the Ottawa Senators on December 5th. He was opposed by Johan Hedberg in goal for New Jersey. The Devils were on the board at the :28 mark when Petr Sykora scored on the game's first shot with assists from Bryce Salvador and Patrik Elias.

Dainius Zubrus doubled the Devils lead at 5:38 when he scored on assists from Matt Taormina and Adam Henrique on the power play.

The Lightning finally seemed to shake off their jet lag from their recent four-game road trip with about three minutes left in the period and it paid off when Steve Downie got them on the board at 17:34. Matt Gilroy and Steven Stamkos chipped in with assists.

Less than 90 seconds later, recently recalled Blair Jones tied the game at 18:54 with his first NHL goal since January of 2010, thanks to help from Dana Tyrell and Gilroy.

While the overall effort was better, the second period started out looking a lot like the first, at least on the scoreboard. The first shot of the period went in again when Zach Parise scored at :56 on assists from Henrique and Henrik Tallinder. Roloson was pulled immediately afterward, having allowed three goals on the twelve shots he faced, and replaced by Mathieu Garon.

The Devils lead was extended back to two when Parise fed Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway created by a flukey bounce of the puck at 5:42.

In what loooked like a carbon copy of Kovalchuk's goal, again created by an odd bounce, Henrique scored New Jersey's sixth shorthanded goal of the season at 13:23. Parise and Mark Fayne contributed assists.

In spite of outshooting New Jersey 17-6 during the period, the Lightning headed to the second intermission down 5-2.

After an extended series of uncalled roughhousing in front of the New Jersey net that eventually led to the Lightning's Downie and the Devils' Alexander Urbom and Tim Sestito in the penalty box, Stamkos gave the Bolts some hope when he scored his 17th goal of the season on the power play at 9:29. Dominic Moore and Vincent Lecavalier offered assists.

With Garon pulled for an extra skater, Stamkos brought the Bolts to within one at 33.5 with help from Pavel Kubina and Lecavalier but there just wasn't enough time to net the equalizer.

"It's important to know where we're going and what the direction is...I asked the players to compete, no mattter what. We all know that it's extremely difficult to play that first game back from a long road trip...we fought. We fought with everything we had. We wanted to give a show to our fans. We care about our fans...They were there, backing us up and we didn't want to quit...we make that one mistake and it costs us right away and it's been like that for a while. It's tough mentally...It's not what happens to you, what matters is how you react to it...I don't think that if we would have quit a while ago because we were'nt winning, we could have given that show to our fans (tonight) and still fight. That's important.'" - head coach Guy Boucher

The Lightning will be in action again Thursday night when they host the Calgary Flames.

Game notes:

  • Prior to the game, the Devils acquired former Lightning defender Kurtis Foster from the Anaheim Ducks. He did not play in tonight's game.
  • Earlier today the Lightning signed free agent forward Antti Miettinen to a two-year, one-way contract. Miettinen appeared in 20 games with Ak-Bars Kazan of Russia's Kontinental Hockey league, with two goals and eight total points. He was originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the seventh round (224th overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
  • In a busy day for transactions, Lightning defenseman Evan Oberg was recalled from Norfolk.
  • Former Bolts assistant coach Adam Oates is now serving in that role with the Devils.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Susan Jacobs as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils. Jacobs, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to her charity of choice, Wheels Of Success. Established in 2003, Wheels Of Success strives to help families obtain or continue work by providing them with reliable transportation through a program of car repairs, vehicle replacement, related licensing services, car payments, down payments and car-care classes in both Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Through the support of dedicated partners in the automotive industry, the organization obtains vehicles through purchase or donation and restores them to good running condition. For nearly a decade, Jacobs has worked tirelessly to assist those in need who have fallen on hard times due to a variety of reasons. As a result of Jacobs’ goodwill and hospitality, dozens of individuals and families have been able to commute to and from work, take their children to school and fulfill daily necessities such as grocery shopping and making trips to the doctor’s office.