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A Gasparilla Parade of Goals for Lightning against the Devils

Scrum Sports phot by Wayne Masut

The red hot Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of six of their last seven games, come into tonight’s game prepared to keep this fire going. Facing the New Jersey Devils who have only won three of their last seven games. Though, their only wins in these games came on the road. Definitely appears that these two teams are going in different directions. Eight games ago for each team, these two faced each other at Amalie Arena. Both teams were battling for the last wildcard spot at that time. The Lightning won in overtime on a Darren Raddysh goal. Tonight, after a day of pirates and parades both land and sea, these two teams meet again. Tampa is now in 3rd place in the Atlantic division and New Jersey is four points back from that final playoff spot. Tonight is the last game before the All-Star break so the Lightning want to head out riding their hot streak while the Devils want to shake off their recent struggles. Take off your eye patch and get ready for a real barn burner tonight. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the start in net for the Lightning. Still out with injury are defensemen Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev and forward Tanner Jeannot. Between the pipes tonight for Jersey is Vitek Vanacek. We will also see former Lightning Ondrej Palat tonight. He missed the game two weeks ago with an injury. The current injury list for the Devils is full of familiar names. Jack Hughes, Tomas Nocek, Dougie Hamilton, Brennan Smith and Jonas Siegenthaler are all out tonight.

Round One 

As expected, the game was played tightly, especially on defense. When both teams contest every shot, it takes work and perhaps some puck luck to get a Grade A scoring chance. Early in the first period, the Lightning were controlling the play. While not really getting a good look at Vanacek, Mikey Eyssimont had the best chance as he danced through three Devil defenders but missed wide left. 

The period ended with a Lightning power play but they were unable to light the lamp. The Lightning had 9 shots while the Devils got off 6 shots at Vasilevskiy. So far, the goalies are protecting their nets as if a pirate’s booty were at stake. The hitting was there if not the scoring. Both teams registered double digit hit numbers in the opening period, 12 for the Devils and 15 for the Lightning.

Got Scoring?

If the opening period was uneventful, the second period seemed intent on being different. Just past the first minute of the period, the Lightning scored the game’s opening goal. Victor Hedman blasted a shot from the point and Nick Paul deftly deflected the puck past Vanacek to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The assist was Hedman’s 700th NHL point. This puts Hedman 28th on the top point getters among all NHL defensemen who have played in league history. 

This goal seemed to put the visitors on their heels. For the next 10 minutes of the period, it was all Lightning, all the time. In the period of the long change, the Devils were struggling just to make line changes, let alone attempt to answer the Lightning’s goal. 

Just past the halfway point of the period, the home team was simply a wave of blue, Lightning blue. Shift after shift and line after line, they kept coming at the Devils. Eventually, the Devils defense gave in to this dominance. Brandon Hagel found himself in front of the Jersey net with a loose puck. Hagel took two whacks at it and scored on the second whack. Knick-knack, paddy whack, Lightning up by two. 

As the period began to wind down, the play of the Lightning was evident in the shots on goal. During the second period, Tampa outshot Jersey 19 to 4. The period ended with the Lightning enjoying a 2-0 lead.

We Got Scoring!

The Devils could not play worse than they did in the second period. Everyone in the building expected them to show up in the final period. A couple minutes into the third period, it was a familiar name lighting up the lamp. Palat banged a rebound past Vasilevskiy. This made it 2-1 so despite the dominating play from the Lightning, the Devils were now one good shot from tying this game up. 

Unless the Lightning can answer. The Captain did. Steven Stamkos gave his team that two goal lead back with a goal of his own to make it 3-1, Lightning. Tampa cannot rest on their laurels. After the goal by Stamkos, there was still 16:11 left to play. 

Clearly, there was no quit on the Devils bench. They were determined to bring it back to a one goal game. Just past the seven minute mark of the period, Jesper Bratt accomplished that with a snap shot that Vasilevskiy got about 95% of but somehow the puck trickled into the Lightning net. Nail biting time as Jersey got it back to a one goal game. 

On a misplay by a Devil defenseman, who passed the puck blindly into the low slot in front of his goalie. Brayden Point jumped on that loose puck and put it past an unsuspecting Vanacek. Back to a two goal lead for Tampa at 4-2. 

The euphoria on the Lightning side didn’t last long as Tyler Toffoli banged in a loose puck past Vasilevskiy to bring the game to 4-3 Lightning. Two and a half minutes left and the visitors have a puncher’s chance. The Devils pulled Vanacek to try and get the goal to send the game into overtime. It was not to be. The Lightning ended the game with not one but two empty net goals. One by Hagel for his second of the game and one for Point, also his second goal of the game. That is how the game ended – 6-3 win for the Lightning. If you are keeping score at home, this is their third consecutive 6-3 win. 

Three Stars 

  1. Victor Hedman – Three assists including his 700th NHL point putting him at 28th all-time among NHL defensemen. 
  2. Brandon Hagel. Two goals 
  3. Brayden Point – Two goals 


What’s Next 

After an extended break which includes the All-Star festivities, the next Lightning game is scheduled for February 7th in Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers at 7:00 pm.

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