The Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the New Jersey Devils by the score of 2-1 in what ended up being a rather uneventful encounter.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has had their ups and downs lately, but through it all, they have continued to find ways to win. Tonight, the Lightning faced yet another challenge on their way to the postseason. The Bolts made their way to the Prudential Center to take on the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils have played a very different game than they did just one season ago. After coming in the last place in the Metropolitan Division in the 2016-17 season, the Devils are on the verge of joining the Tampa Bay Lightning in postseason play. In other words, the Lightning would not be able to “play comfortably.”
The Lightning had some great scoring chances in the opening minutes of the first period, but they simply weren’t able to put the puck in the back of the net. This is quite the change from the quick starts, both good and bad, the Bolts have experienced lately.
There was a lot of back and forth between the Lightning and the Devils in the first 20 minutes of play, but it almost looked as if neither team would be able to break the ice. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. The Devils would pick up the first goal of the game at 17:51 in the period thanks to Nico Hischier.
The Bolts should’ve finished off the first period on the Power Play thanks to Devils defenseman John Moore getting called to the sin bin for Holding against Lightning d-man Victor Hedman. Instead, the Lightning would enter the second period of play in a 4-on-4 situation.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Devils forward Brian Gibbons would execute one of the best acting jobs of the season resulting in the vastly inconsistent officials to call Hedman for Hooking. Say what you will about the play, but this one seriously deserves the Crosby Award of Excellence for this acting job.
If you take the goal scored out of the equation and look at things on paper, it seemed as if the Lightning had the first period well in hand. The Bolts outshot the Devils 14-11 in the first 20 minutes of play and absolutely dominated the faceoff circle with a win percentage of 69 percent.
When the Lightning hit the ice for the second, they would have to contend with a 4-on-4 for about 36 seconds before the Devils would get a shot with the man advantage. There is no denying the Lightning has struggled greatly on the Penalty Kill lately. They really needed to hold strong to open the second if the Lightning wanted to remain competitive and not spend the remainder of the game chasing their tails.
The good news here is the Lightning PK was able to hold strong and prevent the Devils from increasing their lead in the early moments of the second. On the downside of things, the Bolts were also unable to make anything happen in the opening minutes of the period. Things definitely could have been worse, though.
The second period was much like the first. After the Lightning killed off the penalty there was a lot of back and forth. Unfortunately, when the halfway point in the period was reached, things took a definitive turn in favor of the Devils. This all started with a goal from Kyle Palmieri at 10:59, which was his 21st goal of the season.
The Lightning had another opportunity to end the period on the Power Play, but magically, it was all taken away in the blink of an eye. Seconds after Brian Gibbons is whistled for Hooking against Alex Killorn, J.T. Miller was sent to the sin bin for a Faceoff Violation. We think Bolts Jolts put it best.
In any case, this put the Lightning in a bit of a pinch. The Lightning would have to kick off the third period of play in yet another 4-on-4 situation. Being down two goals to start the third, the Lightning will spend the remainder of the game chasing and would absolutely have to be on top of their game if they had any hopes of bringing home the two points from tonight’s contest.
When the Lightning hit the ice for the third period of play, there were questions as to whether or not the Lightning would be able to execute another come-from-behind victory. Thankfully, the Lightning gave their fans a ray of hope in the opening minutes of the period.
At 2:27 in the third, Devils defenseman Will Butcher would be sent to the sin bin for Tripping against Chris Kunitz. Lightning fans had a hard time getting excited about the Power Play opportunity as they were anxiously awaiting a call which would counteract their man advantage. Surprisingly enough, this time that moment did not come.
Just seconds before the penalty was set to expire, the Lightning would strike for the first time with a goal from Ondrej Palat. Assists on the goal would go to defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and forward Brayden Point. This would give the Bolts 15-plus minutes to come up with another two goals to bring home a win in regulation.
The Lightning really brought the pressure to the Devils in the final minutes of the third, but thanks to an amazing performance by former Lightning forward Brian Boyle, goaltender Keith Kinkaid was able to keep the puck out of the net and secure a victory for the Devils.
Overall, this was a rather uneventful game. The action from both sides was lacking intensity, the penalty calling was uneven at best, and both offenses had difficulty getting the puck on the net. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the Devils simply did a better job tonight.
The Lightning is running out of time to extend their lead over the Boston Bruins and solidify their place at the top of the Atlantic Division. The Lightning will come face-to-face with the Bruins two more times before the season comes to a close and if the Bolts don’t start bringing home points, they are going to be in trouble.
The Bolts will make their way back to the Sunshine State tonight and according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times they are scheduled to hold practice tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. The following night the Bolts will open the doors to the Amalie Arena to host the Arizona Coyotes.
It’s incredibly frustrating to be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan right now. Everyone here in the Bolts Nation knows the Lightning is capable of playing a solid, consistent 60 minutes of hockey. Unfortunately, Bolts haven’t exactly been living up to their potential as of late. It’s almost as if their fire went out the window once they clinched their spot in the postseason.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played before the regular season comes to a close; 360 minutes, to be exact. Hopefully, as the time continues to tick off the clock, the Lightning will regain their fire and start bringing home points once again. Of course, this journey kicks off on Monday night in Tampa.