Devils Fall to Lightning, 5-1

The Devils have finished up their season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and to that, I say good riddance. The Devils ended the 2018-19 season 0 and 3 against Tampa, losing last night 5-1 at Prudential Center.

The Devils slotted Will Butcher back into the lineup on defense. Steven Santini remained the defenseman to be out. Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt were the healthy scratches up front while Stefan Noesen drew back in.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start for the Devils, making 16 saves on 20 shots faced. He was pulled before the start of the third period in favor of Cory Schneider, who continues to suffer some struggles. He let in the first shot he saw from Tampa, making five saves on six shots. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 26 shots. Opposing them was Louis Domingue, who would go on to be named the game’s third star. He stopped 26 of 27 shots from the Devils.

New Jersey got behind the eight ball early, conceding a goal 13:31 into the first period to Nikita Kucherov off assists to Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh. That made it 1-0 and the Lightning train just rolled on from there.

Point scored a little over six minutes later at 19:34 from Kucherov and Victor Hedman on the power play. This was set up when Egor Yakovlev took a slashing penalty at 18:49. On the power play Tampa was 2-for-3 on the night with three shots. The Devils were a very sluggish 0-for-4 on the man advantage with seven shots. They also had one shorthanded shot.

The second period was another rough one for the Devils. Tyler Johnson scored 8:20 in from McDonagh and Kucherov. It was now 3-0 and the Devils seemed to be reeling.

But they would get one back to cut the Bolts’ lead to just two when Yakovlev scored at 11:26 from Sami Vatanen and Noesen. It came when Noesen won the faceoff deep in the offensive zone directly to Vatanen. He quickly found a seam for Yakovlev backdoor and Yakovlev snapped a shot by the right-catching Domingue’s glove hand. That made it 3-1 and was also the 27-year-old rookie’s first NHL goal. He played a few years in the KHL before coming over to North America, but has now notched a goal in the NHL.

Unfortunately for the Devils, as the Yakovlev goal was being announced to the crowd, Tampa’s Yanni Gourde was making it 4-1 at 12:39. He got assists from Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

Late in the second period, at 19:52, Blake Coleman was called for slashing Erik Cernak. That penalty would have almost 1:50 of carry over time to the third period, on fresh ice. Also, the Devils decided to switch goalies going into the third with Schneider coming in. All of this was a bit of a recipe for disaster for the Devils.

And sure enough, just 20 seconds into the third frame, Stamkos scored from Point and Kucherov on the power play to make it 5-1. Point would go on to be named the game’s second star with a goal and two assists. Kucherov was the first star with a goal and three assists.

And that was it. While Tampa essentially played keep away from the Devils the rest of the game, they quickly rolled to two more points while New Jersey suffered just their second regulation loss on home ice this season.

In terms of the overall game, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Bolts 23-19, had one more blocked shot then them at eight to seven and had less giveaways at four for the Devils to Tampa’s eight.

The Devils looked to Damon Severson to be a minutes eater, as he logged 19:24 of ice time to lead all New Jersey skaters (including 3:37 on the power play and 14 seconds on the penalty kill). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:07 (4:05 on the PP, 2:35 on the PK). Marcus Johansson led the team in shots on goal with four while hits were led by Noesen with four as well. Blocked shots were co-led by Taylor Hall and Yakovlev who each had two and takeaways were led by Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Noesen and Andy Greene who all had one.

Next up, the Devils get out of Dodge and head for California. They will face the Los Angeles Kings in LA on Thursday to begin a three game road trip against the California teams. That game is at 10:30 PM Eastern on Thursday night/Friday morning and we will have that for you right here.

Lightning Strike Twice: Devils Fall in Second Trip to Tampa

Back on October 30, the Devils traveled down to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. They fell in that game 8-3 in a game that started out for New Jersey but ended in a complete disaster. That was not the case tonight, as the disaster happened early in the first period and the Devils ended up falling 5-2 to the Bolts.

The Devils would try to get a little bit of a shake up in the roster by slotting Stefan Noesen and Egor Yakovlev in at forward and defense, respectively. Sitting in their place was forward J-S Dea and defenseman Mirco Mueller along with Drew Stafford. In other roster news, Steven Santini, it has been announced, will join up with the Devils at the Panthers tomorrow. He was on a long-term injured reserve conditioning stint in Binghamton. He should be available for the big league Devils tomorrow.

In addition to Santini coming back, there was one other milestone being celebrated tonight. Nico Hischier was playing in his 100th NHL regular season game. He played all 82 games last season and that is how he was able to reach that milestone so quickly. He mentioned to Erika Wachter of MSG+ before the game that in Europe they do not play as many games as in the NHL and that this was an achievement that he was very proud of.

In goal, both netminders saw a lot of rubber. Cory Schneider – looking for his first win since April 16 (a playoff win versus the Lightning) – made the start for New Jersey. He made 30 saves on 35 shots. For the Lightning, they are missing Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is on IR with a broken foot. In his place, Tampa threw out Louie Domingue. Domingue stopped 33 of 35 shots faced as well.

For Schneider, the first period was a rough one to be sure as he let in four goals, one of which was a direct result of a mistake made by him. But he played the other 40 minutes very well and was only beaten by a tough one that we will get into in the second period.

The first goal of the game was the goal that Cory would probably most like to have back. After some miscommunication behind the net, where he settled the puck down and it was stolen by a forechecking Mathieu Joseph. He gave it to Alex Killorn right in front of the net, who deposited it to make it 1-0 Tampa at 3:19 of the first period.

The second goal of the game saw one streak end and another continue. It began when Brian Boyle was called for cross-checking Nikita Kucherov at 6:15. Ken Daneyko on MSG+ was not happy with this call, citing how Kucherov had left his feet for a hit on Miles Wood a minute or so earlier which was not called. He felt that Boyle was just playing physical and it was a weak call. But, the call was made and New Jersey needed to kill the penalty off, which has not been a problem for them as they were on a streak of killing off 14 straight opponent’s power plays. But that would end when Brayden Point scored at 7:21 off of a nice feed from Kucherov. Victor Hedman had the secondary assist. That assist for Kucherov extended his point scoring streak to six consecutive games. It was now 2-0 Bolts.

As for the special teams, the Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play with four shots. Tampa went 1-for-3 with four shots on the man advantage plus a shorthanded shot.

The Lightning train kept rolling at 9:15 of the first when Tyler Johnson took a good pass from Point out of the corner following a nice outlet pass by Kucherov. Johnson beat Cory over his shoulder to make it 3-0 Lightning and the rout seemed to be on.

But the Devils would answer right back only 24 seconds later at 9:39 when Stefan Noesen scored from Brett Seney. It happened when Seney’s rebound was tucked behind Domingue by Noesen going to the front of the net. Boyle had been cutting across the crease prior to the goal and Tampa coach Jon Cooper decided to use his coach’s challenge as he thought that Boyle had interfered with Domingue before the goal went in, bumping him and not allowing him to get set to stop Noesen’s shot. The replay showed that that was not the case and the call on the ice stood as a good goal. The Devils had cut the Tampa lead to 3-1.

Cedric Paquette of the Lightning would restore the three goal, however, at the 11:25 mark of the first. He scored from Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi to make it 4-1 and the Devils were back in a hole.

They would seem to be in an even bigger hole late in the first when Taylor Hall was hit in the face by a puck, but he would return before the period was out.

Cory Schneider would be scored on again in the second period, but it was by no means any fault of his own and was another he would surely like to have back. Sami Vatanen was in front of the net trying to clear a loose puck, as he had Brayden Point bearing down on him. As he spun to clear the puck towards the corner, he inadvertently shot it at Schneider before he was fully set and it went in. Point got credit for the goal unassisted at 8:30 of the second. It was now 5-1 Bolts.

The Devils would get one more in the third period to make the score a little bit more respectable. Jesper Bratt had that one, unassisted at 5:21 of the final frame. It came off of a partial 2-on-1 with Wood where Bratt elected to shoot, slapping one by Domingue to make it 5-2. That goal was Bratt’s first of the year, as he had missed a good majority of the beginning of the season with the broken jaw.

And that was it. The Devils won just under half of the game’s faceoffs, with 49-percent of them. They also outhit the Lightning 23 to 17 and had one more block at 11 to Tampa’s 10. Tampa had one more giveaway at five to the Devils’ four.

Individually, Andy Greene led the Devils in ice time with 22:17 (which includes 4:25 on the PK). With Hall missing a bit of the first period, Blake Coleman led the forwards with 19:02 of time on ice (including 4:13 of shorthanded time). Hall did, however, manage to lead the team in shots on goal with five while Noesen – who had sat largely in part due to the coaching staff wanting him to “play more to his identity” – led in hits with four. Blocked shots were led by Hall as well with three and Hall, Travis Zajac, Coleman, Pavel Zacha and Wood each had a takeaway to lead the team collectively with one.

Next up, the Devils will have to forget about this one as they travel across the state of Florida to Sunrise to take on the Panthers tomorrow night. That game is at 7 PM on Monday and, of course, we will have coverage right here for you.

Devils Routed in Tampa Bay

Well, it started out well enough. But then the wheels fell off and they ended the night losing 8-3 in Tampa to the Lightning. This was the team’s first 8-3 loss since October 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh and not a way that they wanted to begin their road trip of seven games over two weeks.

Luckily, there is always a tomorrow and the Devils can shake this loss against a good team off and get back on it on Thursday.

Some roster notes before we begin. Cory Schneider was recalled from his conditioning stint in Binghamton and he was on the bench as the back up tonight. He would end up seeing ice time after Tampa scored their seventh goal. Ben Lovejoy, who was day-to-day, also played tonight, logging 16:17 of ice time (including 3:22 on the penalty kill). Marcus Johansson was also back following his brief illness. For the Devils, Joey Anderson, Eddie Lack and Egor Yakovlev were the healthy scratches.

In goal, Keith Kinkaid started for the Devils, playing 45:02 and making 31 saves on a whopping 38 shots. Schneider would play the last 14:58 and stopped five shots of six faced. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 44 shots on goal. For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 30 Devils shots on goal.

On the power play, the Devils finished the night 1-for-3 with five shots. Tampa was 2-for-3 with five shots as well. Neither team had a shorthanded shot on their resume tonight.

As I said, the Devils jumped out to a quick start, scoring two goals in the first 5:04 of the game. The first came at 1:01 of the opener and came off the stick of Miles Wood (his first of the year). That goal developed when Travis Zajac intercepted the puck at center ice, turning back towards the Tampa Bay zone. He dropped for Taylor Hall at the blue line, who curled around at the far half wall and passed to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen fired a shot that went wide. It was collected by Mirco Mueller at the near point. He kept it in the zone and Wood wound it around to Vatanen, who was pinching in at the far wall. Vatanen fired a shot that Wood redirected past Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Mueller had the secondary assist while Vatanen had the primary.

At the 5:04 mark, Zajac would make it 2-0 off a breakaway. That came when Kinkaid made a save and the puck was pushed to center ice by Blake Coleman. There, Wood created a turnover and chipped the puck up to a streaking Zajac through the neutral zone. Zajac skated in, moving to his backhand and beating Vasilevskiy to make it 2-0 Devils very quickly.

But that was not to last. The Lightning would tie it at two apiece thanks to a single-handed effort by Braydon Coburn. He first tipped one by Kinkaid at 7:30 of the first from Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde to make it 2-1. At the 13:30 mark, he scored his second of the game and of the year when he took a pass in the slot from Cedric Paquette and snapped it by Kinkaid. Adam Erne had the secondary assist on that goal.

So the Devils headed into the first intermission with nothing to show for their quick start, and it was about to get worse. It began when Point shoveled in a rebound after boxing out the Devils d-man in front. He scored from Gourde and Tyler Johnson.

Then the penalties began. First, Blake Coleman was called for high-sticking Ryan McDonagh at 4:39 of the second period. McDonagh was bleeding, which meant Coleman was gone for four minutes. Nikita Kucherov would scored at 6:33, just three seconds before the Devils killed off the first of the double minor. With that the Lightning went up 4-2 and the first half of the double minor was knocked off the clock, but Coleman still had to serve the other two minutes.

Zajac was then called for slashing at 7:12 to set up a 5-on-3 for Tampa. It was then that Steven Stamkos converted from Kucherov and Point. This goal was Stamkos’ 350th career NHL goal and put the Lightning up 5-2.

Before the second was out, the Devils would go on a power play of their own, with Slater Koekkoek called for holding at 16:01. On this, Kyle Palmieri would convert when Hall worked the puck back to Will Butcher at the point. He passed back to Hall, set up at the near wall. Hall found a seam and hit Palmieri at the far faceoff circle. He fired and the puck redirected off of McDonagh’s stick and behind Vasilevskiy to make it 5-3 Tampa. With Hall getting the primary assist here, his points streak remains intact at eight games now. That goal came at 16:47 of the second.

The Devils seemed to be back into things as the second period came to a close. But things would not go so well in the third. Johnson scored at the 3:40 mark from Point and McDonagh to double up the Bolts’ lead at 6-3.

Kucherov would then add his second of the night (he would end the game with three points – two goals and an assist) from JT Miller and Stamkos at 5:02 to add the extra point. This is when Kinkaid was pulled in favor of Schneider. That was more to get Schneider some reps rather than to just pull Kinkaid. McDonagh would then finish off the scoring at the 5:51 mark when he scored his first of the year from Point and Gourde to give us our final: 8-3.

Statistically, the Devils won just 40-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were outhit 33-30. They did manage one more blocked shot with 14 to Tampa’s 13.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 21:38 of total ice time (1:33 on the power play and 1:23 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 20:23 (3:22 PP/12 seconds of PK time). Vatanen also led in shots on goal with five. Stefan Noesen led the team in hits with seven while Andy Greene and Lovejoy each had three blocked shots apiece to lead that category. Palmieri led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils travel to Detroit to continue the road trip on Thursday where they will try to rebound from this one. Puck drop for that one is also 7:30 PM and we will, of course, see you here.

Round One, Game Five: Devils Eliminated From Playoffs With 3-1 Loss

Cory Schneider was the Devils’ best penalty killer in game five. And the Devils were on the PK a lot in the second period. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

The New Jersey Devils capped off what was a great season on a bit of a down note, being eliminated from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 loss in game five to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

The loss came with a side of the strange as the Devils spent nearly the entirity of the second period on the penalty kill. Yet despite that and 13 power play shots on goal, the Devils shut the Tampa power play down, keeping them 0-for-5.

I was at the Prudential Center viewing party that the Devils put on. It was fun, as these events usually are. A ticket cost $5 with proceeds going to the Humboldt Broncos following the tragic bus crash that the Saskatchewan junior team was involved in earlier this month.

The Devils made a few changes to their lineup. Out were Drew Stafford and Stefan Noesen up front. Back in were Brian Gibbons and Jesper Bratt (making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut). With Sami Vatanen missing on the blue line due to the high hit he received in game four (a play that not only did not draw a penalty, but failed to draw any supplemental discipline from the NHL), Mirco Mueller slotted back in on defense.

In goal, the Devils went back to Cory Schneider. Simply put, he was phenomenal tonight. He kept the Devils in the game and was their best penalty killer during the second period. He made 35 saves on 37 shots against. The Lightning finished with 38 shots for as they added an empty netter later in the game.

Andrei Vasilevskiy went for the Lightning and saw considerably less work. He stopped 26 of 27 shots against. Considering the Devils spent the majority of the game a man down, 27 shots is not a bad total. When given the chance, the Devils offense looked good. The problem was they were not finishing against Vasilevskiy, as he stood tall like he did most of the series for Tampa.

Mikhail Sergachev got the scoring going at the 8:07 mark of the first. Anthony Cirelli had the lone assist on what was the only scoring for about a period and a half, if not two full periods.

The second period was when the Devils’ mettle was really tested. It began 5:05 in when Pavel Zacha was given a holding call. The Devils killed that off and at 7:10 received a bench minor for too many men on the ice. They killed that off and at 11:12, Kyle Palmieri was called for tripping. They killed that off and at 13:26 Damon Severson was assessed a holding penalty. They killed that off and just as the period was ending, at the 20:00 mark, Andy Greene took a cross checking penalty.

Now, if you will indulge me for a second. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! If you are going to call a game tight, I understand that. But call it both ways! You cannot tell me that with all of the ticky-tack calls that were going against the Devils, the Lightning were completely innocent. Not with what we saw in games three and four. I know it’s not cool to get on the officiating because there is nothing you can do, you have to play your game, blah blah blah. I saw at least two or three interference calls not made against Tampa. The only one you cannot argue is the too many men call. That is cut-and-dry. The rest? Let’s just say there was a lot of “discretion” used. And with that, I will get off of my soap box.

There really was no harm as the Devils killed off all five penalties in a row, but it put them a distinct disadvantage because they were busy on the PK when they should have been focusing on tying the game. The Devils finally got their chance on the power play when Cirelli was nabbed for high sticking Blake Coleman 9:02 into the third. The Devils had three shots on that power play as they went 0-for-1. They also had a shorthanded shot on goal, for what it’s worth.

Nikita Kucherov made it 2-0 at the 12:27 mark of the third from Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos. The Devils seemed in a deeper hole until they pulled Schneider with about 3:30 left in the game.

It was then that New Jersey got on the board to cut the Lightning lead to 2-1. Patrick Maroon tipped a Kyle Palmieri shot by Vasilevskiy. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the final Devils goal of the 2017-18 season.

The Devils had, against all odds, made it a game. They pulled Schneider again, but Ryan Callahan, returning to the lineup for Tampa, iced it with two seconds remaining. His empty net goal was assisted by Ryan McDonagh.

Statistically, the Devils were outshot 38-27, won 40-percent of the game’s faceoffs and were out hit, 28-22. Tampa had 13 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight.

Individually, Greene led the team in time on ice with 23:29 (with a whopping 6:23 on the PK), Bratt had the most shots with four, hits were led by Greene with four, blocked shots were led by Taylor Hall and Greene with two apiece and Hall, Pavel Zacha, Gibbons, John Moore and Mueller each led in takeaways with one each.

So now the Lightning go on to face the winners of the Toronto-Boston series while the Devils go home. The Devils go home, though, with nothing to be ashamed of. They played a complete season, never dropping out of a playoff spot all year, and overcame so much to make the playoffs for the first time in six years. Every Devils fan should be proud of this team and excited for what is to come. A few more roster tweaks, a call here or there, and this team will be Stanley Cup contenders in no time.

We’ll see you here all summer and into next season. Please feel free to follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, sign up for email alerts to see when new posts are added, email us at or simply leave a comment below this post.

Congratulations to the New Jersey Devils on a great 2017-18 season and here’s to the future!

Round One, Game Four: Lightning Win 3-1, Devils Lose Vatanen

Kyle Palmieri had the Devils’ lone goal in a 3-1 loss at The Rock. The Devils are now down 3-1 in the series to Tampa Bay. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Nobody said this playoff thing would be easy.

The Devils lost 3-1 at Prudential Center in game four of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. This puts them down in the series 3-1 as well, heading into game five in Tampa.

More importantly, they lost their best defenseman, Sami Vatanen, to injury. He was hit with an elbow to the head during a hit by the Bolts’ Nikita Kucherov and immediately left down the tunnel. There was no penalty call on the play. Officially, it was listed as an upper body injury and he did not return. There is a possibility that he could miss game five, putting the Devils in a rough situation. The physical play spilled over from game three and it has taken a toll on both teams.

Another factor for the Devils was special teams. They went 1-for-6, scoring their lone goal with the man advantage with six total shots. And while the power play improved, so did the Devils’ penalty kill. The Devils had been killing penalties at a 44-percent clip, good for last of all the teams in the postseason. Tonight, however, the Devils went 0-for-5 keeping the high-powered Lightning PP to eight shots on net. It was a great improvement and helped keep the game close.

New Jersey went with the same lineup from game three. Scratched were Joey Anderson, Christoph Bertschy, Jesper Bratt, Brian Gibbons, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Michael Kapla, Eddie Lack, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Mirco Mueller, Blake Pietila, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini and Brian Strait. One of the d-men, likely Mueller, should slot in on Saturday should Vatanen not be able to return.

Tampa was playing again without Ryan Callahan (upper body) and Tyler Johnson was a game time decision with an undisclosed injury. He would play.

In goal, Cory Schneider went for the Devils, stopping 34 of 36 shots (Tampa added an empty netter late in the game) and playing extremely well. However, he was being opposed by a 2018 Vezina Trophy finalist and it showed. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 28 Devils shots in the game and was, at times, the best player on the ice for Tampa (which is saying something considering their star power). At times, the Devils could not even get shots through to him, Tampa was clogging the shooting lanes that well.

Officiating the game were referees Wes McCauley and Tim Peel. This was significant, according to MSG’s Steve Cangialosi, because McCauley was named the best ref in the NHL by the players and Peel is known for calling a lot of penalties. The league obviously wanted to keep things under control after game three saw 100 minutes of misconduct penalties assessed when the dust settled on that one. They showed that they were not fooling around when Taylor Hall was nabbed for a hooking call just 34 seconds into the game.

Some interesting facts to get to before we delve more into game four. Game three was Cory Schneider’s first playoff win since April 18, 2012 when he was with Vancouver. That was over the Los Angeles Kings – the eventual Stanley Cup champs who beat the Devils to take home the hardware. Also, I read somewhere that game three’s win ensured that the Devils are the oldest NHL club to have never been swept in a playoff series (44 and counting). Nashville has not been swept in 17 tries (and counting) and Vegas in one (a record that they could be adding a lot to in the coming weeks). Also, Devils fans booed Victor Hedman every time he touched the puck in game four, reacting to his cheap stick work on Nico Hischier in game three.

Also, the Devils had a special fan in attendance. Patrick Warburton, Puddy himself, was at Prudential Center to help rally the fans. He was in full facepaint and waving a rally towel. He also took off his jersey to reveal a “D” painted on his chest. It was a reference to the classic Seinfeld episode and it got the fans ready to go.

Things would ramp up even more in the first period when Alex Killorn went off for hooking at the 7:47 mark. The Devils were on their first power play of the game, but were about to go up 5-on-3 when Cedric Paquette was called for tripping Hall as Hall entered the Tampa zone on a rush.

The Devils would convert on this one when Kyle Palmieri scored his first playoff goal as a Devil at 8:23 from Will Butcher and Hall. Travis Zajac won a faceoff in the Lightning zone to Palmieri along the far boards. After retrieving it in the corner, he passed to Butcher at the point. Butcher went to Hall down at the top of the near faceoff circle. He passed back to Butcher at the point. Butcher saw Palmieri set up at the far faceoff dot. He saucered one to him and Palmieri let rip a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy cleanly to give the Devils the early 1-0 lead.

But that was it for the New Jersey scoring on the night. But they were not without chances. First Zajac was stopped on a breakaway just moments after the goal still on the power play. Blake Coleman would be stopped on a breakaway a few minutes after the Zajac one.

Tampa tied things up at 11:30 when JT Miller scored from Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Moments after that, with 7:43 remaining in the first, the Lightning had seemingly taken the lead when Cory Conacher scored.

But Devils coach John Hynes issued a coach’s challenge asserting that Tampa was offside on the play. The replay was conclusive that he was correct and the goal was called back. The game remained tied at one.

The Lightning would take the lead for real and permanently at the 15:02 mark of the first when Kucherov whacked at a rebound, scoring on a second chance from Baydon Coburn and Miller. That made it 2-1 Lightning and that is basically where it would stay for the rest of the game.

Tampa would begin both the second and third periods on the power play, but as noted, the Devils would kill them off.

Andy Greene would be called for tripping at the 12:52 mark of the third which would set up a crucial PK late in the game. Palmieri would come through on that one, blocking a shot and clearing the puck while visibly hurting. He would be okay, but the effort showed that the Devils were really engaged in this one.

They would pull Cory with about 1:15 left in the contest in a bid to get things tied up, but it was to no avail. Kucherov iced the game with his second of the night, an empty netter from Miller at 18:52. That made it 3-1 in the game and gave the Lightning the 3-1 series lead.

With Vatanen – a d-man who plays in all situations and accrues the most ice time on the team – out, Butcher actually led the team in TOI with 21:52. Down a man, the time was more spread out on the defense corps. Of Butcher’s time, 7:32 of it was on the power play. Damon Severson led the team in shots on goal by a wide margin with eight. Hits were led by Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford and Marcus Johansson with four each. Ben Lovejoy led in blocked shots with four and Greene had three takeaways to lead in that category.

Team-wise, Tampa led in shots 37-28. The Devils won 59-percent of the faceoffs and led in hits 25-19. Blocks were even at ten for each team.

Next up, the Devils head fown ot Florida for a do-or-die game five. The Devils will be hosting a viewing party for the game at Prudential Center. Tickets are $5 each and will benefit the survivors and family of the Humboldt Broncos tradedy in Saskatchewan. I will be attending so my post on the game will be a little bit late. That game is at 3 PM on NBC as well.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please do not hesitate to follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, sign up for email alerts for new posts, email us at or simply leave a comment below. Thanks!

Round One, Game Three: Now We Have a Series! Devils Defeat Lightning 5-2

Cory Schneider was back in net for the Devils. He turned aside 34 of 36 Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Photo: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Playoff hockey is back, ladies and gentlemen! In the Devils’ first playoff game at The Rock since June 9, 2012 (game five of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings), they scraped and clawed back into the series with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Devils were back in New Jersey with a new look to their lineup. For one thing, Marcus Johansson was in, playing in his first game since the January 23 game at Boston when Brad Marchand cheap-shotted him as he was cutting to the net. That hit cost him the rest of the regular season and two playoff games, but number 90 was in the lineup tonight. He was playing in his first playoff game with the Devils, his first since he was with Washington last season. Johansson played on a line with Pavel Zacha and Patrick Maroon.

Joining him as changes to the lineup were Drew Stafford (playing on a line with Miles Wood and Brian Boyle), slotting back in up front as the Devils went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen, and Cory Schnedier. Cory was starting his first playoff game as a New Jersey Devil. We know all about the drought – he had not won a game since December 27, 2017 versus Detroit – and that this was his first playoff start since a May 7, 2013 loss to San Jose as a Vancouver Canuck.

But he played a fantastic game tonight. He would nearly have to leave the game just before the Devils took the lead later in the third period after he stretched his leg out to make a save and then had a Tampa player bump into his outstretched left leg. With his history of hip and groin injuries, the Prudential Center held its collective breath. But he would fight through the pain and continue on. He ended up making 34 saves on 36 Tampa shots.

Going for Tampa was Andrei Vasilevskiy again. He stopped 36 of 39 Devils shots. The Devils added two empty net goals and so finished the game with 41 total shots on goal.

The Devils had a crowded press box with newly-signed Joey Anderson, Christoph Bertschy, Jesper Bratt, Brian Gibbons, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Michael Kapla, Eddie Lack, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Mirco Mueller, Blake Pietila, Kevin Rooney, Steven Santini and Brian Strait all scratched. Binghamton did not qualify for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, for what it’s worth.

The game was tight through the first period, with no score going into the first intermission. What we did have was a penalty to the Devils’ Andy Greene that was called slashing officially, but what looked more like a cross check to Yanni Gourde at 19:44. In any case, the Lightning would have the majority of their power play time on fresh ice in the second period.

Their lethal power play wasted no time, scoring 42 seconds into the second frame when Alex Killorn was all alone in the slot, took a pass from Nikita Kucherov and scored his fourth of the series. Steven Stamkos had the secondary assist. The penalty kill continued to be a point of contention for the Devils, as Tampa was 2-for-5 with eight shots on goal on the man advantage. The Devils went 1-for-7 with 13 shots on net. In a game when the Devils knew they had to stay out of the penalty box, it was Tampa who still capitalized when they did get chances.

The Lightning had the 1-0 lead, but the Devils tied things up at the 12:24 mark of the second when who else, but Taylor Hall notched one unassisted. Hall skated the puck low to high and dished to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri fired on net and the rebound came to Hall in the slot. He unleashed a shot and found the back of the net to tie things up at one. Initially, Boyle and Palmieri were given assists on the goal but the scoring was changed and it was called unassisted at 12:24.

Either way, it was great for Hall, who hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway late in the first period after beating Vasilevskiy cleanly. Bryce Salavdor of MSG joked that there was a dent in the crossbar due to how hard Hall had shot the puck there. Also, a Devils goal had been waved off midway through the second period when Blake Coleman’s shot crossed the goal line after the Tampa net came off of its moorings. Toronto reviewed the shorthanded chance, but the call on the ice stood: no goal.

Prudential Center errupted following Hall’s goal, but things were about to get a whole lot better.

But first, Tampa would take another lead. This came when Stamkos notched his first of the playoffs just 38 seconds into the third period from Kucherov and Killorn on the power play. Cory got a piece of the shot, but could not hold on to it. It was 2-1 Tampa.

Once again, the Devils had taken a penalty late in a period and paid for it early in the next. It was 2-1 Lightning, but things were about to turn up for the Devils.

It began with Will Butcher on the power play. It began at the 2:39 mark of the third when Tampa’s Cedric Paquette went off for tripping Butcher. Then, at 3:39, the Lightning took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Devils had about a minute or so of 5-on-3 power play time. And Butcher responded. At the 4:03 mark, he would score from Hall and Palmieri to tie things up at two.

Palmieri guided the puck back to Butcher at the point. Butcher gave to Hall at the near half wall. He gave back to Butcher, teeing him up to snipe one top shelf by Vasilevskiy. The game was now 2-2 as the Devils scored on the power play. They would not convert on the ensuing 5-on-4, but the damage was done.

And the Devils were not done. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead when Stefan Noesen scored his first of the playoffs at 12:55 from Hall and Greene. It started with Greene giving to Hall in the Devils’ zone following a delayed offside on Tampa Bay. Hall then weaved his way up ice and, once he broke into the Lightning zone, fed Noesen, who fired a one-timer by Vasilevskiy to give the Devils their first lead of the series.

Hall said during the post game that he knew Noesen had a great shot and was just looking to set him up.

Tampa would pull Vasilevskiy wtih about 1:20 left int the game and the Devils would pot two empty netters. The first came at 19:02 when Coleman scored shorthanded and unassisted to make it 4-2 (the Devils were in the middle of a huge kill and Tampa had a 6-on-4 advantage with the goaltender pulled). Ben Lovejoy then scored unassisted at 20 seconds later to make it 5-2, your final.

The game ended with Tampa on the power play as things got a bit chippy late. Tempers began to flare when Nico Hischier was speared by Victor Hedman in the groin and no call was made. This followed Coleman receiving a high hit from Mikhail Sergachev that was called. This was after the Noesen goal and the bad feelings contiued to the final whistle. In the end, Paquette (Tampa), Boyle (New Jersey), Chris Kunitz (Tampa), John Moore (New Jersey), Braydon Coburn (Tampa), Drew Stafford (New Jersey), Cory Conacher (Tampa), Damon Severson (New Jersey), Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa) and Miles Wood (New Jersey) were all assessed misconduct penalties at 19:37. The Devils’ Boyle also was called for holding, which is why the Lightning ended the game on the PP.

But that was enough. The Devils came away with the 5-2 victory and cut the series lead to 2-1 in favor of Tampa. For what it’s worth, the last time the Devils came back from a 2-0 series deficit was 1994 against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

In the end, Travis Zajac led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:23 (7:48 of power play time and 5:02 on the PK). Sami Vatanen led all d-men in TOI with 22:42 total. Hall and Coleman tied in shots on goal with six, Coleman also led in hits with five. Zacha had two blocked shots to lead the Devils in that category and takeaways were led by Coleman with two. Coleman really imprinted himself on this game and made his mark.

Team-wise, the Devils out shot Tampa 41-36, won 55-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were out hit 34-33 and had one more blocked shot, 9-8. The three stars of the game were: Taylor Hall (first), Cory Schneider (second) and Stefan Noesen (third).

Next up, Wednesday and game four at The Rock. The Devils will look to pull even in that one and make this into a full-on series.

Note: if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, sign up here for new post alerts, email us at or simply leave a comment below. Thanks!

Round One, Game One: Devils Fall to Lightning 5-2

Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut. The Devils fell, 5-2. Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

For the Devils players without much, or any, playoff experience, it was trial by fire. They jumped in the deep end and were off having to perform on a stage they might not have been used to. New Jersey fell in game one 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena tonight.

It was playoff veterans versus playoff newbies, that was for sure – MSG+ showed a stat pregame which showed that the combined playoff games played by Tampa was 1,152 while the Devils’ players combined for just 561. Players like Taylor Hall, Keith Kinkaid, Pavel Zacha, Blake Coleman, Nico Hischier, Will Butcher and others were playing in playoff game number one.

But the Devils do have plenty of veteran leadership: Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are the lone holdovers from the Devils’ last playoff game (played on June 11, 2012 – game six of the Stanley Cup Final – a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings). Brian Boyle certainly has played a lot of playoff hockey in recent years, as have Sami Vatanen and Ben Lovejoy (who has a Stanley Cup ring from his time in Pittsburgh).

What I am trying to say is that there are plenty of guys on this team that have the experience to help this team advance.

That being said, there is always pressure in game one – as there is all throughout the playoffs – and a lot of nervousness and anticipation.

The Devils just got hit early and often by Tampa and were not able to come back from it. Once they settle down, things should be better.

The good news: Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the Bolts’ big guns, were largely held at bay and Taylor Hall wasted no time in getting his name on a playoff scoresheet. The bad news: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde were all over that same scoresheet for the Lightning.

The Devils and Lightning have met twice before in the playoffs in 2003 and 2007 with New Jersey winning both matchups. Both teams are part of a huge turnover in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as both missed last year and are back in in 2018.

Scratched for the Devils were Jesper Bratt, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson, Eddie Lack and Steven Santini (both called up from Binghamton for the playoffs), Damon Severson and Drew Stafford.

In nets, Keith Kinkaid was in for the Devils, making 27 saves on 31 Tampa shots. He became the first Devils goalie not named Martin Brodeur to start a playoff game in 24 years. I am going to go ahead and guess it was Chris Terrreri who made that last start in 1994.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy went and made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.

Kinkaid was on point very early, stopping Gourde and causing him to lose the handle on a sure goal into a wide open net early in the game. But he could only do so much. At the 15 minute mark of the first, Palat scored, taking a pass from Tyler Johnson as he was cutting through the slot and chipping the puck up and over Kinkaid’s shoulder to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. Ryan McDonagh had the secondary assist.

The Devils would not get out of the period down only 1-0, though. with just 29 seconds remaining in the first, Tyler Johnson took a pass as he was skating into the slot from Palat. He fired up over Kinkaid’s glove to make it 2-0. Bryce Salvador of MSG+ pointed out that this goal resulted in the Lightning winning the board battles and gaining the puck. Brayden Point had the secondary assist on that goal.

A goal late in a period is a momentum killer, but so is one early in a period. The Bolts obliged there too. Just 1:54 into the second period, Palat kicked a puck across the front of the Devils’ net to Gourde, who took the pass and buried it. Palat was having his stick lifted by Mirco Mueller which facilitated him having to kick to puck to Gourde. Mikhail Sergachev had the secondary assist there. That one came on the power play when Miles Wood was called for slashing Dan Girardi.

But Taylor Hall has not come this far to not be a factor. He scored the Devils’ first goal of the game, unassisted at 13:55 of the second period. Hall intercepted a pass from Tampa’s Palat – he was trying to hit Johnson in front of the Lightning net – and fired it by Vasilevskiy’s stick side. The Devils were on the board 3-1 and Hall had his first NHL playoff goal.

The Devils would take some degree of control at the end of the second, pushing into the third when Travis Zajac scored from Hall and Butcher at the 9:35 mark. This one came on the power play and was set up when JT Miller went off for slashing Mueller. Kyle Palmieri sealed off his man along the far boards and gave the puck to Butcher at the point. He passed to Hall down low at the near faceoff dot. Hall saw Zajac right on the doorstep and passed. Zajac simply chipped the puck in to cut the Tampa lead to one.

The goal that made it 3-2 was Zajac’s eleventh career playoff goal and his first since game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers. Hall also now had two points on the night.

Overall on the night, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the power play against a Tampa PK that was ranked 28th in the NHL during the regular season. They had seven power play shots on goal. Tampa was 1-for-1 with four shots on goal during the man advantage.

The Devils’ momentum, however, was short-lived. At the 12:14 mark, Tampa broke through as Alex Killorn scored as the trailer on a 3-on-2 for the Lightning. It started with a blocked shot and a turnover and Tampa was off to the races. He shot upstairs on Kinkaid and made it 4-2. Gourde had the lone assist.

The Devils would pull Kinkaid with about 2:30 remaining in the game – and nearly scored on their own net. Tampa would add an empty net goal as Kucherov scored unassisted into the open cage at 18:48.

There was some pushing and shoving following the final horn, as both teams were trying to set the tone for game two. It was the Lightning who came out of the game with the early 1-0 series lead, however.

Statistically, Vatanen led the team with 26:32 of ice time (including 37 seconds on the power play), Hall led in shots on goal with five, Palmieri led in hits with seven, Greene, Butcher, Mueller and Vatanen all had two blocks to set the tone there and Hischier, Zajac, Stefan Noesen and Zacha each had a takeaway to lead in that stat.

Team-wise, shots on goal were pretty even: Tampa had the slight edge 32-31 (due to their empty netter). The Devils won 48-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also had more hits than the Bolts, 36-35 and more blocked shots, 16-15.

Next up, game two comes on Saturday from Amalie Arena. That game will be on NBC nationally. We will have you covered here as well.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet. You can also email us at or simply leave a comment below the post. Thank you!

Lightning Round: Devils’ First Round Playoff Opponent Set

The Devils are ready for their first playoff series since the 2012 Stanley Cup Final and their opponent is the first overall team in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning get the Devils due to the Boston Bruins losing to the Florida Panthers on Sunday night, 4-2 at TD Garden. With that loss, Tampa won the Atlantic Division, ended up with the most points in the Eastern Conference and got the eighth seed, the Devils.

The Devils finished the season tied with Columbus in points and ROWs (regulation and overtime wins) but got knocked down to the eighth seed due to losing the head-to-head season series with the Blue Jackets.

Certainly this is a better matchup for the Devils than either the Washington Capitals or, definitely, the Boston Bruins. The worst possible situation would have probably been Columbus, but the Devils could not get them in the first round no matter what.

But make no mistake, the Lightning are not the easier matchup. This is the playoffs and the Devils are up against the best in the conference. This will be no cakewalk. But I think that goes for both teams.

The Devils, of course, swept the season series with the powerful Lightning, beating them 5-4 in a shootout on October 17 in Newark, 4-3 on February 17 (the Eddie Lack game) at Tampa and 2-1 at Prudential Center on March 24. These were all tight, one goal games, which are very playoff-like. Could this be a sign of things to come?

While the Lightning are playoff veterans (many of their players have either had deep playoff runs there or in other places), the Devils are largely new to this. The rookies like Nico Hischier, Will Butcher and Miles Wood and young guys like Pavel Zacha are making their first trip to the playoffs, of course, but so are some veterans like Taylor Hall and Keith Kinkaid. So that should be something to watch: experience versus a team that was not expected to do anything and is playing with house money so to speak.

And speaking to that, Tampa will have all of the pressure on them, seeing as how they are the top team in the East and the Atlantic Division champs. They are the one who fans feel are the team that should be winning the Stanley Cup, not the Devils.

But the Devils are not just happy to be here. They want to do some damage now that they are in. It should be a great series. Both teams are similar in style, playing a fast, up-tempo puck possession game. They are not heavy, physical teams and can score in bunches at times. The guys on the Devils Insiders podcast put things best on their recent episode previewing the playoffs when they said that for both teams, sometimes their best defense is their offense.

We will see how things shake down and just what the Devils can do.

As for TV, all games in the first round will be broadcast on MSG+ with the exception of game two which is on NBC on Saturday, April 14. Nationally, game one will be on NHL Network in the US and Sportsnet and TVAS2 in Canada. Game two will be on NBC and CNBC in he US and SN360 and TVAS2 in Canada. Game three will be on CNBC in the US and Sportsnet and TVAS2 in Canada. Game four will be on Golf Network (US) and Sportsnet and TVAS2 (Canada). Game five on will be decided as necessary.

No matter what, it is fun to be back in and here’s hoping the Devils can move on. Tampa is a top team in the NHL, there is no denying that. A deep team up and down their lineup. Hopefully the Devils can overcome and weather the storm and move on. They are the decided underdogs here and I do not think they would want it any other way.

Devils Edge By Tampa For Second Straight Win

Nico Hischier scored his 18th of the season and second goal in as many nights in a 2-1 Devils victory over Tampa. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Another Stanley Cup contender, another Devils win, another day at the office. The Devils, who have seemingly continued to play up to elite competition this season did it again, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center last night, 2-1.

The win helped the Devils gain some ground on Philly, who play tomorrow against the Penguins. They are only two points behind the number one wild card team in the East. Florida did win to keep pace, beating Arizona 4-2, and do have games in hand, but the Devils can only worry about themselves and that is what they are doing.

The Devils’ lineup got a bit of a shakeup, as Ben Lovejoy sat in favor of Mirco Mueller on D while Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford were the other scratches. Stefan Noesen drew back in up front and Miles Wood remains out with an upper body injury.

The Devils also went back to the red-hot Keith Kinkaid in net. He stopped 35 of 36 shots against, playing out of his mind at times. There is no doubting that Kinkaid is in a zone right now and the Devils will ride him as long as they can. Kinkaid would be named the game’s number one star at the end of the night. Andrei Vasilevskiy went for Tampa and made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots.

Nico Hischier kicked off the scoring in the game, getting the Devils on the board first. Nico notched his 18th of the season and second in as many nights when he scored at 17:51 from Will Butcher and Mueller. The goal came when Nico skated deep into the Lightning zone with the puck. He came out from behind the net and dished to Butcher at the far point. Butcher faked a shot and went D-to-D with Mueller. Mueller returned the pass after gaining some space and Butcher shot. Vasilevskiy knocked the shot down, but the rebound came right to Nico, who was able to shovel it in as he was falling down to make it 1-0 Devils.

The Devils had the early lead on the Eastern Conference’s best team and would keep it through the first intermission.

In the second period, Kyle Palmieri doubled the Devils’ lead with a goal at 10:59 from Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall. This one developed when Zacha gave to Palmieri at the near half wall. Palmieri made a nice individual effort to get free in the high slot, fired and beat Vasilevskiy to the stick side to put the Devils up 2-0. That would prove to be the game winner.

The teams had played at 4-on-4 just prior to the Palmieri goal. That was a strange situation as Brian Gibbons of the Devils was called for hooking against Alex Killorn. On the ensuing faceoff in the Devils’ zone, the Lightning had a faceoff violation. JT Miller jumped into the circle and he was also called for a faceoff violation, leading to a delay of game penalty for Tampa. The Lightning power play was nullified before it even got a chance to start.

In the third period, Ondrej Palat scored at 4:22 on the power play to cut the Devils lead to 2-1. He got assists from Mikhail Sergachev and Brayden Point. The Devils’ Butcher had been taken off for tripping at 2:27.

After a frantic last few minutes where the Devils were just not able to put the puck into the Tampa net vacated by Vasilevskiy for the extra skater, the Devils won a few key faceoffs in their zone and got some timely goaltending by Kinkaid to come away with the 2-1 victory.

The Devils ended the night 0-for-1 on the power play with no shots on goal. The Lightning ended up 1-for-2 with three shots.

Statistically, the Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outhit Tampa, 27-16 and had ten more blocked shots with 18 to Tampa Bay’s eight. Individually, Sami Vatanen again led all New Jersey skaters in ice time with 25:48 (1:05 on the power play, 2:43 on the PK) while Hall led the forwards with 17:57 (inlcuding 1:05 on the power play). Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman, the Plano,Texas boys, led in shots on goal with four apiece. Coleman also led in hits with five. Kyle Palmieri and Brian Gibbons led in blocks with three and Hall led in takeaways with two.

With this win, the Devils swept the season series against the powerful Bolts, going 3-0-0 against the Cup contenders this season.

Next up, the Devils remain home as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center on Tuesday. Hopefully, the Devils can keep up the momentum they have built against legit contenders in taking on a team that is below them in the standings. We will see you Tuesday.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please do not hesitate to follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet. You can also email us at or simply leave a comment below the article.

Devils Hang on to Defeat High-Powered Bolts

While it snows here in New Jersey, the Devils traveled to warm, sunny Florida to take on the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning in their only trip to Tampa this season. The Devils were able to hang on for a 4-3 victory that was as big a win as they have had all season.

The Devils sort of have the Bolts’ number this year, beating them in their other meeting, way back on October 17 in Newark, in a shootout. In the time since, the Lightning have had their way with the rest of the league, currently leading in the President’s Trophy race for the best overall record in the NHL. But this was the Devils’, or more specifically, Eddie Lack’s, night.

The Devils goaltender turned away a career high 48 shots as the Lightning blasted 51 on his net. Lack got the start primarily because the Devils play in Carolina tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, a 22 hour turnaround between tonight and tomorrow. With that little time between games, you do not want to go with Keith Kinkaid for both. He also notched his first win as a Devil and first overall since November 13, when he was with Calgary. Lack would be named the game’s first star.

Opposing him was Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. He stopped 24 of 28 Devils shots. Less of a workload and the Devils were able to break through with goals when they needed to.

Some roster news for the Devils as John Quenneville has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 10. He is out with the knee injury. The Devils called up Blake Pietila from Binghamton, but he did not play as a healthy scratch. Brian Boyle remained a scratch with his shoulder injury. He may return to the lineup as soon as tomorrow’s game in Raleigh. Mirco Mueller was the other healthy scratch.

The Devils needed to stay out of the penalty box against a high powered offense like Tampa has, but were not successful on that front. Coach John Hynes said repeatedly in his postgame press conference that they did not stay disciplined, saying that he “was disappointed in their penalty discipline.” Tampa ended up 2-for-6 on the power play, getting a whopping 15 power play shots through to Lack. The Devils were 0-for-3 with four shots on goal. The Devils did a good job on the penalty kill, blocking shots and getting sticks in lanes. When that failed, Lack was phenomenal and helped the Devils cause as much as he could.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Ben Lovejoy scored the opening goal of the game for New Jersey. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The Devils got on the board first, at 2:59 of the first period when Ben Lovejoy scored unassisted. It came when Lovejoy took a Lightning clearing attempt along the half wall and threw it on net. The puck squibbed by Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Devils. Lovejoy told Deb Placey during a first intermission interview that the players have been instructed to just get the puck on net when they were along the wall like that and he did so. He had a little bit of luck on his side however, as the puck had eyes and found its way into the back of the net.

Another former Pittsburgh Penguin would tie the game up for Tampa. Chris Kunitz, like Lovejoy he played for years with the Pens, winning three Stanley Cups there, took a perfect backhanded pass from Ryan Callahan at 12:41 and fired a nice shot that beat Lack to make it 1-1. That is where we would be come the first intermission. A good start for the Devils as they got out of the first period tied with a very good team.

But that good team would be given too many chances to score as the Devils beat a path to the penalty box. Early in the second, Sami Vatanen was called for holding Brayden Point. The Bolts would score with just seven seconds left on the power play. Point scored on a rebound as he crashed the net at 2:47 to put Tampa up 2-1. Yanni Gourde and Mikhail Sergachev had the assists.

The Devils, however, would not be deterred. Just 26 seconds after the Point goal, Nico Hischier would score to tie things up at two. It happened when Vatanen got the puck out of the Devils’ zone and to Taylor Hall. Hall made a nice move around a Tampa defender, jumping up with Hischier on a two-on-one. Hischier elected to shoot (something the coaches have been asking him to do more of) on the ensuing odd man rush, and beat Vasilevskiy stick side to tie the game up. Vatanen and Hall had the assists, extending Hall’s consecutive points streak to 17 games total and ten officially – the NHL counting the games that he missed with an injury in between the first seven game streak and this new streak against him.

Nico’s goal was also set up by a nice defensive play by Will Butcher, as he stood the Lightning up at the Devils blue line as they broke in on a two-on-one to give the Devils possession of the puck in the first place.

At 4:54, the Devils would again find themselves in penalty trouble. Miles Wood hit a vulnerable Vladislav Namestnikov and got a boarding call out of it. Andrej Sustr took exception and the two started jostling, leading to matching roughing calls for Wood and Sustr. With the initial boarding call, though, New Jersey was going on the PK.

But things would work out for them. At 6:27, Pavel Zacha put in a shorthanded goal from Vatanen and Lovejoy to give the Devils the 3-2 lead. It happened when the Devils caught Tampa in a bad line change after circling the puck back to center to buy time. Vatanen hit Zacha with a nice pass through the neutral zone and he and Blake Coleman broke in on a two-on-one. Zacha took the shot himself, beating Vasilevskiy to the stick side to regain the lead for the Devils.

The Devils killed off the rest of the penalty and things seemed to really be going their way. An “oh boy” moment occurred when Hall seemed to score midway through the second period. The red light came on briefly but the goal was immediately waved off by the on-ice officials. Replay did show that the shot bounced off of Tampa’s Anton Stralman and off the far post, never crossing the goal line. It was the correct call, even if a little bit disappointing for Devils fans.

The Devils got out of the second with the lead and things were beginning to point in the direction that they could actually pull this off. Things looked even more like that when Wood scored just 1:24 into the third frame. That one came when Vasilevskiy made two great saves, the second a nice reaction save on Travis Zajac in front. The puck was directed to the near corner, where Stefan Noesen won a puck battle to gain control. He centered to Wood in the slot. Wood beat Vasilevskiy as the goalie was moving side-to-side to square up to his shot. That made it 4-2 Devils and seemed to ice the game for New Jersey.

But against a team like the Bolts, that is never true. Especially when the Devils are taking as many penalties as they did in this game. With Kyle Palmieri in the box for tripping, it only took 12 seconds for the Lightning power play to notch one. Steven Stamkos (who drew the penalty) scored from Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov 5:15 into the third period. That would set up a dramatic finish.

With Tampa down by one, coach Jon Cooper would pull Vasilevskiy with just under two minutes left in the game. With the Bolts with the extra skater, it was a shooting gallery on Lack. But he came through, making the big saves when he was most needed and preserving the Devils’ 4-3 win.

Stats-wise, Vatanen led in ice time with 25:25. Wood led in shots on goal by a wide margin with six, doubling up Zajac and Noesen, who had the second most with three each. Noesen did lead in hits with three while Andy Greene led in blocked shots with four. Hischier was the leader in takeaways with three while the Devils won 53-percent of their faceoffs, a feat without Boyle – one of their strongest faceoff guys.

Eddie Lack played the game of his career for the Devils, making 48 saves. Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

So don’t look now, but the Devils have won three in a row and are creating some breathing room for themselves in the wildcard race. Next up they have a big showdown with the Hurricanes again tomorrow with the puck drop at 5 PM. Carolina has lost two straight (the Devils game and then the following night against the Islanders). Hopefully the Devils can keep up the momentum and this early start will play into their hands.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow us on Twitter @LGDevilsNet, email us (the email can be found in the “About” section on the main page), or simply leave a comment below. All photos in this article credited to Chris O’Meara/Associated Press.