After the debacle in Columbus last night, a game which team captain Andy Greene said “embarrassed” them, the New Jersey Devils looked to right the ship against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference: the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two teams had not faced each other to this point in the 2015-16 season, but would lock horns at Prudential Center tonight.
The Devils did not fare much better against Tampa Bay than they did against Columbus, as the Bolts defeated the Devils in a 4-0 romp.
First, news out of the New Jersey camp, as Michael Cammalleri might end up missing the rest of the season. Coach John Hynes said that he had a “setback” and would not rule out the possibility of him missing the rest of the year. With only about twenty games left counting tonight’s game versus Tampa, this would seem like a likely possibility.
The Devils came into the second half of the back-to-back by sitting Eric Gelinas, Seth Helgeson and Jacob Josefson. With Josefson missing from the lineup, how would the Devils do with the extra man? Turns out we would not really get a chance to find out. The Devils only had one power play on the night (against Tampa Bay’s six) with neither team scoring with the man advantage.
The goaltending matchup featured two of the front runners to mind the nets for Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey this September: Ben Bishop of Tampa and the Devils’ Cory Schneider. Schneider made 32 stops on 36 shots faced. Bishop was a perfect 21-for-21 en route to his 13th career shutout (good enough to move him into second on the all-time Lightning franchise list).
And he was tested a few times too. Adam Henrique had a chance at an open net early in the first, but he pushed it wide as he was tied up in front of the goal mouth. Henrique would also miss a chance with about 6:30 to go in the second, as he just could not get a handle on the puck in front of Bishop.
The Lightning got on the board first when Alex Killorn scored off a nice pass from Steven Stamkos at 15:36. Ryan Callahan had the secondary assist. The Devils were down 1-0 and the Bolts seemed to have things in hand as they hit the post with just about five minutes left in the first period. Cory was able to stop the rebound behind him, but Tampa was coming on strong.
Mid-second period, Tampa would double their lead when Ondrej Palat scored off an assist from Tyler Johnson at 13:02. Things seemed to be getting out of control for the Devils, but nothing they could not seemingly handle.
Unfortunately, the back breaker came when Steven Stamkos scored at 18:54 of the second. The goal was originally given to Stamkos, then changed to Anton Stralman, then changed back to Stamkos. Stamkos had tipped the puck in and it was clearly his goal. It was also 3-0 Tampa Bay.
Bishop made a great save at 10:43 of the third on Tyler Kennedy, robbing him of what was a sure chance and on an empty net.
The Lightning finished the scoring up in the third period when Matthew Carle beat Cory off assists from Palat and Andrej Sustr. The goal actually was tipped in off of Devils’ defenseman Jon Merrill’s stick, as he did not have his stick on the ice and it deflected in off of the shaft, confusing Schneider. It was 4-0 Bolts and that was your final.
The game would end 4-on-4 when Stephen Gionta went off for unsportsmanlike conduct and Vladislav Namestnikov was sent off for roughing.
The Devils have been outscored 10-1 in the last two games and though they may have been tired coming in from Columbus for tonight’s game, they are not making excuses. The team has the weekend off and will face division rival Carolina on Tuesday. The Hurricanes are battling for a playoff spot themselves and may make some deals by Monday’s 3 PM trading deadline. The Devils have not lost any points in the race with these losses. What they have lost is games in hand. Teams ahead of them, such as Pittsburgh, have more games left to play and by Tuesday, after the Penguins play two more games, we will find out exactly where the Devils stand.
Will the Devils make any moves Monday at the deadline? They could use some offensive firepower to replace Cammalleri, but we will see. Hopefully, with some rest, the Devils will be back and able to take on a Hurricanes team that is in a similar predicament to them.