Jacques Lemaire isn’t crazy after all.
It was about a week ago when Lemaire said that although the Devils were still losing games, he was beginning to see a host of positives in their play. More and more, it’s beginning to look like Lemaire really knew what he was talking about.
On Friday night in Tampa Bay, the Devils put forth a full 60 minute effort and were handsomely rewarded with a 5-2 win over the Lightning. The Devils used a four-goal first period to stake Martin Brodeur to an early cushion, and the future Hall-of-Famer was stellar between the pipes with 30 saves to preserve the lead. The win broke a string of 11 consecutive losses for the Devils on the road. Their last road victory came all the way back on November 3 in Chicago. Friday’s victory marks just the second time this season that the Devils have won two games in a row.
Tampa Bay actually held a lead in this game when stud forward Steven Stamkos opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal. However, Ilya Kovalchuk brought the Devils back even just three minutes later with one of his patented wrist shots from the slot.
The Devils wasted no time adding to their lead. Brian Rolston ripped a one-timer past Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. Patrik Elias, the Devils lone All-Star, made it 3-1 after he fired a rebound past Roloson. Travis Zajac put an early end to Roloson’s night when his shorthanded goal made it 4-1 with about four minutes to play in the first period.
Jacques Lemaire enjoyed what he saw from his team in the first period, but that’s not all he enjoyed.
“I liked all three [periods],” Lemaire said. “When you score four goals you definitely have to like it.”
Martin St. Louis cut the Devils lead to 4-2 when he scored a beauty of a goal on a breakaway with about five minutes to play in the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk made certain that there would be no chance of a Lightning comeback with his second goal of the night, coming with about six minutes remaining in the game. Kovalchuk unleashed another powerful wrist shot from almost the exact same spot where he scored his first goal of the night. The only difference between the two goals was the goaltender he beat, as this time the victim was Roloson’s replacement, Dan Ellis.
The third period was a sight that probably made a lot of Devils fans smile, and many other hockey fans cringe. The Devils, playing with the lead, exhibited the style of play that has made them so successful over the years. The Devils were perfectly content with getting to the red line and dumping the puck into the Lightning zone, making this game a battle of the neutral zone. Even Kovalchuk, who is not known for his defensive acumen, was working hard on the forecheck and making contributions defensively.
“I think we’re working way harder than we used to,” Kovalchuk said. “I think that’s because of our practices. Our practices are very intense and we do a lot of drills that are going to help you in games. It’s like a game situation and I think almost all of us, we’re getting in game shape and you can tell.”
The Devils look to keep the momentum going as they continue their Sunshine State trip in Sunrise, Florida when they take on the Florida Panthers. The puck drops at 7 p.m. The Devils will be looking to put together their first three-game winning streak since December of 2009.
“It would be nice,” Brodeur said of winning three in a row.
Yes it would, thrice as nice even.
About the Author
Written by Matt Pellicane
I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. I graduated from Quinnipiac in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in print journalism. While at Quinnipiac, I covered various sporting events on campus for the online newspaper The Quad News. I was born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey and have been an avid sports fan all of my life. I am a fan of the New Jersey Devils, New York Giants, New York Yankees, and the Boston Celtics.