The Tampa Bay Lightning were banking on carrying over the intensity and offensive outburst they had against the Phoenix Coyotes to tonight’s game against a desperate and hot Devils team that is trying to do the unthinkable—crawl back into the playoff picture after being the laughingstock of the Eastern Conference for most of the season.
With Jacques Lemaire behind the Devils bench, the trap game circa 1990s was on full display. This defensive scheme worked during the first as they slowed down the game and kept the Lightning to 8 shots in the period. However the forwards and the defense for the Lightning worked in tandem to cycle the puck high-low and put pucks at Devil’s goalie, Johan Hedberg’s feet for rebounds.
Less than three minutes into the second period-period it was Martin St. Louis who broke the stalemate for his 23rd goal of the season. Less than a minute later Simon Gagne got the eventual game winner. Both Tampa Bay goals were nearly identical in that they were off wrist shots from the top of the faceoff circles following a draw. Both were also marked top corner on Hedberg who finished the night with 28 saves.
Dwayne Roloson had a solid night in net finishing with 19 saves, none better than a pad save on a Ilya Kovalchuk breakaway to keep the Devils from knotting the game up 1-1. Roloson also stopped an odd-man rush led by Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri in the first period.
New Jersey’s only goal came from rookie Mark Fayne in the third period.
The Lightning played a strong game against a tough team looking to find any way they can to get back into the playoff picture. The Devils came in with a playoff mentality and the Lightning matched them.
Tampa Bay finishes the homestand with a 7-3-2 record. They now have built a five-point cushion with one game in hand on the Washington Capitals for possession of second place.
The upcoming short road trip will be a good measuring stick for the team as they face teams that are trying to stay in the playoffs, looking to get in, or are looking to take second place—New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Boston Bruins, respectively. Should they come out with a couple wins, it’s going to boost their confidence the rest of the way.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Tran
New York transplant from California, and an avid blogger and sports fan. As he tends to do every year, he picks an Eastern Conference NHL team to root for until they become too good and he fears for his team out west. If you want to talk hockey with me, feel free to send a line.