The last Devils win against the Tampa Bay Lightning came in December of 2014, five straight losses led to tonight’s game at the Prudential Center. The second meeting already in this young season for these two teams and their first of two in a week as they get set to do battle in Tampa next Saturday. This was the Devils’ first home game of the year against an Eastern Conference foe.
The day got off to some bad news as they found out that Blake Speers broke his wrist in his season debut with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. He will be out for at least six weeks. Speers had just been returned to his junior team for the season from the Devils.
There was still no battle of the World Cup’s Team USA goalies: Cory Schneider versus Ben Bishop. Cory Schneider got the start for the Devils, but Tampa elected to go with Andrei Vasilevsky. Schneider made 32 stops on 33 Lightning shots, while Vasilevsky made 20 saves on the Devils’ 23 shots on net. Cory was brilliant again tonight, making some great saves especially while Tampa was on the power play.
The Devils had a little bit of luck, as it were, as Nikita Kucherov was not in the lineup for the Bolts. He joined Matt Taormina as Tampa’s scratches. Scratched for New Jersey were Reid Boucher and Jacob Josefson.
Adam Henrique got the scoring started off, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead just 3:57 into the game. It came on a breakaway off of a nice outlet pass from Damon Severson. Henrique ripped the puck short side and beat Vasilevsky to get the Devils rolling. Michael Cammalleri had the secondary assist. The goal was Henrique’s 100th career NHL goal. Congratulations to him on that milestone.
The good news was that the Devils had the lead; the bad news was that the Devils had not won a game this season where they led first. The question was, would they be able to keep the lead with Tampa Bay, one of the top scoring teams in the Eastern Conference and the NHL?
Damon Severson had the answer to that question at 13:13 (appropriate as the Devils were celebrating Halloween tonight a few days early) of the first. It started when Kyle Palmieri went point-to-point with Andy Greene. Greene gave to Henrique, who fired from the slot and the rebound came out to Severson, who was pinching in. He buried it and the Devils had a 2-0 lead. It was the second goal in as many games by a New Jersey defenseman. It was also Damon Severson’s first goal since December 11, 2015, breaking a 51 game goal drought.
The second period kicked off with Cedric Paquette and Sergey Kalinin squaring off just 39 seconds in to the frame. Kalinin was able to get a good right hand in and dropped Paquette, winning the fight in a rout and setting the tone for the Devils. Paquette was trying to get his team back into the game, but Kalinin answered the call.
A minute and a half or so later, Henrique went off the ice for cross checking Tyler Johnson and it looked like Tampa might be back into things. The PK unit ended up staying on the ice for the majority of the penalty, but Cory was able to keep the Lightning off the board with a few good stops.
The Devils had been looking to two players in particular to find the back of the net, one was Michael Cammalleri and the other was Devante Smith-Pelly. Smith-Pelly would do his part when he scored at 5:22 of the second period. The play began when Kyle Quincey pinched in to keep the puck in the Tampa zone. He gave the puck to Nick Lappin, who shoveled it in front to Smith-Pelly who finished it, putting it behind Vasilevsky. Smith-Pelly was very physical in front of the net, winning the battle for position and being in the right spot to put the pass home. The assist to Lappin was his first NHL point and Quincey’s assist was his first point as a Devil. New Jersey now enjoyed a 3-0 lead. This also marked the Devils’ first three goal lead this season, as they scored on their first shot of the second period.
The Devils looked to add to it late in the second frame when PA Parenteau and Henrique had a 2-on-1 odd man rush, but Vasilevsky was able to make the blocker save.
Things would get a little bit closer as the Bolts came flying out of the gate in the third period. And sure enough, Tyler Johnson scored just 1:59 into the period to break Schneider’s shut out and cut the Devils’ lead to 3-1. The lone assist went to Brayden Point.
Michael Cammalleri was stopped on a breakaway midway through the third period. He has not scored since December of 2015 due to his injury-plagued season last year. He did have a good game, however.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper would pull Vasilevsky with a little over three minutes left in the game, but to no avail. The Devils held out and were able to hold on for the 3-1 win.
On the night, the Devils’ power play went 0-for-1 while Tampa did not score in four chances with the man advantage.
Next up on the docket for the Devils, it’s more of the same as they head to Florida to first take on the Panthers in Sunrise on Thursday (yes, the Devils go almost a full work week without playing a game). They then meet up with the Lightning again next Saturday this time at Amalie Arena, completing the season series then.