Third time is a charm as the Devils finally find a way to beat the Lightning, 5-2

Kucherov hit the century mark while Jesper Bratt had a hat trick.

The New Jersey Devils came into Amalie Arena and showed the Tampa Bay Lightning why they are the best road team in the league as they won, 5-2, and improved to 5-0 on the second half of back-to-backs on the road. Pretty impressive. Things were actually rolling for the Lightning as Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn spotted them a two-goal lead by the early minutes of the second period, but three straight goals by the Devils over a five-and-a-half minute stretch in the middle frame proved the difference.

Jesper Bratt was the star of the night with a hat trick while Nico Hischier and Nolan Foote also scored. Vitek Vanecek bounced back from his rough start against the Lightning last week by stopping 22 of 24 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a couple squeak by that he probably wants back and finished 34 of 38. Of note, the Lightning power play was 0-for-4 on the night with just three shots on net.

To put it simply, New Jersey was the better team Sunday night. Yes the Lightning made plenty of mistakes, but the Devils forced most of them and their speed through the neutral zone gave the Lightning fits all night long.

First Period:

So the best part of the first period was that the Lightning scored the only goal during the first 20 minutes. While there was some pace to the period, neither team was exactly dancing around with the puck on a string. In fact, they looked like two teams that had played the night before.

The Lightning picked up an early power play (and a late one for that matter) and while New Jersey did a pretty good job of killing off the penalty, the big guns for Tampa Bay were still on the ice.

Kucherov made a nice move at the blue line to open up some space and dished it off to Stamkos. Immediately after passing it, Kucherov wanted it back as he glided into the slot. Stammer saw him and set up the one-timer. Kuch didn’t miss from there. That’s an even 100 points on the season for the All-Star.

Following the goal, New Jersey had the better run of play territory wise as their forecheck, especially the Tomas Tatar line, caused some issues for the Lightning. While they were able to keep the puck in the zone, actual shots on net were rather limited.

Emotional TV timeout? Yup. It was Ondrej Palat tribute time:

After everyone used their ketchup-stained napkins to dry their eyes it was back to hockey. New Jersey stayed on the attack and former prospect Nolan Foote came close to tying the game as he rang one off the post. Tampa Bay was still struggling a bit to string a few passes together and, unlike yesterday, their offensive zone time wasn’t really that dominating.  However, they were doing an excellent job of keeping the danger to the edges. Of the 7 scoring chances New Jersey was credited with at 5v5, only one was regarded as high danger.

A late power play for the Lightning was a clinic on how not to enter the zone and the Devils gapped up on the blue line and stuffed the repeated Lightning entry attempts.

Nikita Kucherov (Steven Stamkos) 1-0 Lightning

Second Period:

Make no doubt about it, the Devils were the better team to start the second period. After they easily dealt with the remainder of the Lightning power play, they got on their imaginary ice horses and kept pressuring the Lightning zone. Unlike in the first, they were getting to the dangerous places (7-0 advantage in high-danger chances in the period) and challenging Andrei Vasilevskiy. The big goaltender was up to the task though.

The Lightning weren’t really phased by the push though. While their chances were limited to the occasional one rush attempt and done, they eventually made it work. A long stretch pass from Erik Cernak caught the Devils on a line change and Alex Killorn was in alone. With no one really open, Killorn held onto the puck long enough for Damon Severson to slide by and then wristed a shot past Vanecek for a 2-0 lead. Welcome to the high point of the game.

The two-goal lead lasted all of nine seconds. The lead itself only lasted 2:52. Blame it all on Jesper Bratt. First Nico Hischier sent him around Victor Hedman and he beat Vasilevskiy cleanly after almost losing control of the puck. Then off of a face-off win in the Lightning zone, Bratt was circling around with the puck and then had an opportunity to shoot. He fired a knuckle-puck that Vasy never really saw as it floated by him and into the net.

It would be stretching it to say the Lightning were rattled, but they were definitely chasing the game. The Devils had all of the speed and puck possession. Eventually they would have the lead as well. A turnover in the neutral zone and the Devils were quickly into the Lightning zone. On a move similar to the one Bratt used to score the first goal, Hischier drifted through the slot and beat Vasilevsiy with a wrist shot. Vasy was not happy about letting that one in.

Following the third goal, and some emphatic instruction from the Lightning bench, the Bolts did turn things a bit over the last eight minutes of the period. New Jersey was still faster, but the Lightning were able to spend a little more time in their zone. The refs thought they had tied it when Ian Cole launched a floater that it looked like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tipped in off the post. Unfortunately a quick review showed that it had hit the post and stayed out as it skittered along the goal line.

Vasilevskiy made up for the Hischier goal as he made a nice pad stop on Jack Hughes. Another late period power play for the Lightning looked better than their first two, but didn’t lead to a goal.

Alex Killorn (Erik Cernak, Anthony Cirelli) 2-0 Lightning

Jesper Bratt (Nico Hischier, Damon Severson) 2-1 Lightning

Jesper Bratt (Jonas Siegenthaler, Dougie Hamilton) 2-2

Nico Hischier (Dougie Hamilton) 3-2 Devils

Third Period:

The Lightning had a few chances in the third period after their power play went by the wayside. They just couldn’t finish them off. New Jersey was doing a fine job of keeping the play to the perimeter (just one high-danger chance for the Lightning over the first 12 minutes of the period) and when the Bolts did get shots on Vanecek, the rebounds hopped over their sticks or were directed well away from the net.

Also, New Jersey wasn’t content on sitting back and protecting the lead. Vasilevskiy had to be sharp on several occasions to keep his team in the game, but unfortunately another screened shot got by him. This one off of the stick of Nolan Foote. With the way the game was going, it wasn’t feeling like a night where the Lightning were going to come back from a two-goal deficit.

A late power play provided some hope, but that hope was stuffed at the blue line like every single Lightning entry with the extra skater. After the power play expired, Vasilevskiy went to the bench and the extra skater came out. Six-on-five was no better than five-on-four for the Bolts and despite a one flurry of shots, it was Jesper Bratt like some Bizarro Superman version of Branden Hagel that finished off his hat trick with an empty net goal.

It wasn’t the way the Lightning wanted to end the weekend, but overall it was a pretty solid week for Tampa Bay. Now they are on the road for four straight starting on Tuesday in Montreal.

Nolan Foote (Yegor Sharangovich, Kevin Bahl) 4-2 Devils

Jesper Bratt (unassisted) Empty Net, 5-2 Devils

No highlights for an empty net goal.