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Devil of a Time for New Jersey against the Lightning

Photo credit: Robert Hazou Scrum Sports

One of the surprise teams in the NHL are the New Jersey Devils. Tied for most points in the Metropolitan Division with 94, the same number as the Carolina Hurricanes. This is also the second highest point total league-wide. Former Lightning Ondrej Palat found a new home in Jersey and is a leader of these young upstarts. One thing for certain, these two teams are about to get to know each other very well. Over the next six days, they will play three games. Tonight, Thursday in Jersey and Sunday at Amalie Arena. Coming into tonight, Jersey is on a three game winning streak. On the other hand, Tampa is coming off a loss. Will the Lightning find a devil of a time in Jersey? Or will they show the playoff bound Devils how it’s done this time of year? 

This Devils team is exciting to watch. Some young stars like Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes along with veterans like Palat, Tomas Tatar and Dougie Hamilton. For Jersey, a win tonight coupled with a Carolina loss against Winnipeg and they take top spot in the division. On the other side, the Lightning are now just four points behind Toronto for second place in the Atlantic. Win tonight and they are two points behind the idle Maple Leafs. Either way, we should see a real barn burner tonight. One of these team is going to have a devil of a time at the Prudential Center but which one? 

Opening Salvo

Right off the bat, the Devils were jumping all over the place. They were buzzing up and down the ice. Even their icing dumps were exciting. The game was just over the five minute mark when the Devils opened the scoring. After a prolonged shift in the Lightning zone, newly acquired forward Timo Meier snapped a shot at Andrei Vasilevskiy. Unable to control the rebound, Vasilevskiy left half the net open for Damon Severson loitering off the side. Just like that, in the blink of an eye the Devils take a one goal lead. Spurred on by that goal, New Jersey stepped on the accelerator. Taking the game to the visiting Lightning, all the play was in Tampa’s zone. Before you knew it, the home team scored again. Replays showed that Tatar was in the blue paint in front of Vasilevskiy. Coach Jon Cooper challenged the goal for goaltender interference and the referees agreed. Still only 1-0. 

Lightning Response is Devil of a Time for Jersey

The Devils were still the dominant team though the Lightning were leveling the ice a bit. Ian Cole was whistled for a trip putting the Devils on the power play. For the second time in as many games, the Lightning scored a short-handed goal. Brandon Hagel streaked down the ice with Anthony Cirelli trailing him. It was a 2 on 1 break. Hagel dropped the puck to Cirelli who lifted a backhand past Devils goalie Vitek Vanacek for the tying goal. 

The first period ended with each team scoring one goal. The Lightning outshot the Devils 12-10. Both teams had power plays, one for Tampa and two for New Jersey. Only Cirelli’s shorty was scored by special teams. This game has the makings of a playoff type game. Would that continue in the next two periods?

Middle Frame

Over the last 2-3 weeks, the Lightning have struggled in the second period. Coming into the second with the game tied at one, they can not afford to give the Devils an inch. True to recent form, New Jersey was hopping up and down the ice. In fact the Lightning didn’t get a shot off until almost nine minutes into the period. But what a shot. After getting a feed from Mikhail Sergachev, Hagel put on the jets and found himself on a 2-1 breakaway with Nikita Kucherov.

Jersey defenseman Ryan Graves, the lone Devils player, cheated towards Kucherov. Everyone in the building thought Hagel was going to pass to Kucherov. Furthermore, all Lightning fans watching here at home thought the pass was going to Kucherov. So, what did Hagel do? Blasted a shot past Vanacek for the first lead of the game for the Lightning 2-1.

Turning Around the Second Period

So, now the Lightning are playing with the lead. On the road in the second period. Contrary to the last couple weeks, this is new territory. Would the Lightning find the strength to build on the lead? It didn’t take long to get the answer. Five minutes after the Hagel goal, Alex Killorn trailing Hagel on the left side received a nice drop pass from Hagel. Killorn then strolled down undefended in the low slot and snapped a twisted wrister past Vanacek for another Lightning goal.

Definitely new territory for the Lightning on the road. A multi-goal lead. One thing is certain, New Jersey can score in bunches. They come at you in waves, shift after shift and live up to their team name. Giving opponents a devil of a time against them. Will the Lightning hold up defensively? 

Devil of a Time for Jersey

You could see why the Devils are enjoying a good season. There is no quit in this team. They were working on getting the proximate goal to give them a chance in this game. Without a doubt, the Lightning as a team stood tall combating New Jersey’s attack. Despite the concerted effort on the part of the Devils, they could not get on the scoreboard. It was a combination of the defense in front of Vasilevskiy as well as the goalie himself. It didn’t hurt that the goal posts were Vasilevskiy’s best friend tonight. I counted four New Jersey shots ringing off the posts. As the period was coming to an end, there was a last second goal. 

Unfortunately, for the home team it was the visitors finding the back of the net. With less than ONE SECOND left in the period, Kucherov scored the Lightning’s fourth goal to give them a 4-1 lead. It was a nice give and go with Brayden Point and boom, the air went out of the Prudential Center.

Heading into the final period, this is Tampa’s game to lose. With Jersey’s offensive firepower, they cannot rest on their first two period laurels. There are two more games between these two clubs in the next five days. Clearly, messages will be sent in the third period.

Final Straw 

No doubt that the Devils could make a game out of this. The Lightning have to avoid letting them back in the game. Take care of their zone and it should all work out. Get the two points, make sure nobody gets hurt and come back Thursday ready to do it again. Give New Jersey credit, they were digging into this game, trying to get back in. As the Lightning have found out recently, chasing the game down multiple goals is a tough road. It proved to be too tough for Jersey. 

They were outshot by the Lightning 11-6. They were outmuscled on virtually every puck battle and they couldn’t find the back of the net. Summing up, it was a devil of a time for Jersey tonight, The game ended as the third period started. Lightning over the Devils 4-1. 

Three Stars 

  1. Brandon Hagel – 1 goal, two assists and set the tone for the Lightning in this game
  2. Andrei Vasilevskiy – 22 saves on 23 shots for a .957 save percentage
  3. Darren Raddysh – didn’t register a point but blocked 4 shots 

What’s Next

It’s deja vu all over again. Thursday night, same place, same time (7:00pm)  – Lightning vs Devils at the Prudential Center for the second of three games against New Jersey.

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