It’s never a good sign when your general manager is fired just hours before a game. That was the case for Louis Domingue and the New Jersey Devils Sunday. What’s worse for the Devils? They had to face a red-hot team looking for their 11th straight win: the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning’s win streak of ten-plus games is their second in as many seasons. The promising thing for the Bolts is that they gave up 19 goals during last year’s run. This season’s figure is just 17. Domingue was a huge part of last year’s stretch. Though it’s only a two goal difference, it indicates a more defensive-minded team. That mentality would be key against a Devils squad that, while struggling, has its fair share of young offensive talent.
In the opening moments, the shots were altered by a Devil power play in which Curtis McElhinney made his first few stops – a good sign for the Lightning as he settled in during his first start in a hot moment. The Bolts then began to get settled in the New Jersey end, and had some quality looks. One of the best chances came when a Nikita Kucherov shot was deflected and ended up skimming the top of the net.
Special teams did, and didn’t, dominate the opening frame. The Devils got the game’s first two power plays, but were unable to convert either time. When Tampa Bay got their first crack, they had the same result, but not for a lack of outstanding effort. The Lightning moved the puck with ease, and the Devils penalty killers were gassed. Lastly, New Jersey had another power play.
Penalty kill prominence
New Jersey once again failed to tally, thanks to two Lightning players in particular doing fantastic work. Jan Rutta and Carter Verhaeghe, two relatively new additions to the Tampa Bay shorthanded unit, were excellent. Verhaeghe, just days after his first NHL hat trick, continues to impress. The Lightning held an 11-10 shot advantage after twenty minutes, but no team led.
Five-on-five ferocity rewarded
Through period number one, there was no question Tampa Bay was the better team five-on-five. Finally, their efforts were rewarded early in the second. Tyler Johnson slid unnoticed to the front of the net and beat Domingue to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Devils dial it up
Shortly after the Johnson goal, the Devils came in a wave. Firstly, Andy Greene threw one on net and beat McElhinney to tie the game at one. Moments later, Nikita Gusev turned and wired another one in the direction of the net. Travis Zajac made a wicked redirection, and, all of a sudden, the Devils were up 2-1.
Domingue, the Lightning’s backup goaltender last season, likely had this game marked on his calendar. He’d prefer nothing more than to best his former teammates and get the home crowd on their feet. In the middle stanza, he made some excellent saves, including a series of stops on Steven Stamkos from the Tampa Bay captain’s office on the power play. He’d seen that shot in practice last season, and it was apparent. The Bolts headed to the box once more at the end of the period, and thanks to Domingue’s stellar play, the Devils held their 2-1 advantage despite being outshot 20-16.
Grind it out game
The third period began how much of the game had played out: with little room to operate. Neither team was giving up much through the middle of the ice. It was difficult to get into the scoring zone, and get good shots on net. That theme wasn’t ideal for the Lightning, trying to claw back into the game in the third.
Not so fast
It looked as if the Devils had put the icing on the cake with a goal with around eight minutes to play. However, there was goalie interference on the attempt, and after a quick review, the Gusev tally was overturned. Thus, the Bolts still had hope.
Before the Lightning pulled the goaltender late, they managed to generate some solid chances five-on-five. Their best look of the third came when Stamkos was in alone, but he was boxed out and Domingue shut the door. They would get some good looks after that, but nothing to that degree.
McElhinney was yanked with just over two minutes to play, and the Lightning sustained pressure nearly that entire time. However, they seemed hesitant to shoot the puck, and ultimately fell short. Miles Wood put home an empty netter to make it a 3-1 New Jersey final. The Bolts’ win streak stalled at a franchise-best ten games. They’ll be back in action Tuesday at Amalie Arena, hosting the Los Angeles Kings.
Our three stars of the game
- Louis Domingue: 26 saves. Domingue was excellent against his former squad all night long, earning the win for his team.
- Victor Hedman: 1 assist: Hedman was swooping in on the play all night long, and got an assist on the Bolts goal.
- Nikita Gusev: 1 assist: Gusev was all over the ice and could’ve had a goal if not for a goalie interference call.
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