NEWARK , N.J. -- It was a game New Jersey Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner didn't expect to win.
That is until he saw defenseman Andy Greene fire a shot from the right point that he deflected home with 38.1 seconds remaining in regulation period to give his team a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
"I'm not sure we played a good enough game to deserve it," Langenbrunner admitted. "I think they played a better game and deserved a better fate. We weren't getting anything all night, especially over the first two periods, but to get those power-play goals in the third and then to win it in regulation was a bonus."
The Devils' offense finally gained some momentum in the opening stages of the third period-- opening a 2-1 lead after connecting twice on three power-play opportunities in a span of 3:59. Brian Rolston tied the game 1-1 with a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Antero Niittymaki just 1:12 into the period and Tampa defenseman Lukas Krajicek in the box for slashing.
Rookie Niclas Bergfors jumped on a giveaway by Lightning defenseman David Hale before snapping home his eighth of the season at the right hash at 5:14 with Steven Stamkos serving a minor for tripping.
Bergfors' goal was set up by fellow rookie Vladimir Zharkov, whose pursuit of the puck behind the Lightning cage forced the turnover. It was Zharkov's first NHL point in his third game.
But the Lighting got even at 2-2 on a power-play goal with 3:00 remaining in regulation when Steve Downie banged home a picturesque feed from Stamkos.
"Sometimes when the pressure is on, some people do stupid things and we took stupid, stupid penalties in the third," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "It's frustrating because we're in control of the game, 1-0, and they didn't have many chances and then dumb penalty after dumb penalty kills us. On their last goal (by Langenbrunner), we showed no tenacity in front of the net to clear it anybody."
The Lightning entered the game ranked 27th in the League with a 76.4 penalty-killing efficiency -- something Tocchet won't stand for much longer.
"We have to straighten this out quickly," he said.
Despite limiting the Devils to 19 shots, their lowest total of the season, the Lightning paid the price for their inability to kill penalties.
"Credit Tampa for controlling their gap and making it tough for us to come through the neutral zone," Langenbrunner said. "In situations like that, we have to push a little harder -- push their defense. We were kind of letting them get away with it but once we started pushing, we created those power-play chances and were able to capitalize."
The Devils, who rank 11th in the League on the power play at 21.1 percent, were 2-for-4 with the man advantage against the Lightning.
"We definitely didn't play enough or do enough good things early on," Langenbrunner said. "To have just six shots (at the 10-minute mark of the second period) is ridiculous. But our power-play did a good job of creating things and giving us a shot in the end."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur finished with 22 saves; Niittymaki turned aside 16 shots.
The Lightning opened a 1-0 lead 1:26 into the second when Vinny Lecavalier scored his sixth goal of the season. Lecavalier, who on Thursday admitted how frustrated he's become with his lackluster production on offense, scored off a wraparound.
"The goal was a little lucky I guess," Lecavalier said. "But I'll definitely take it. There wasn't any letdown by us after we tied the game late (2-2). A goal like that pumps everyone up but they happen to score 30 seconds before the game ends; I don't know what else to say. We could have gotten a big point, but it didn't happen."
The regulation victory marked the first time in five meetings between the clubs that the game was decided in regulation. That includes two shootout victories by the Devils in TampaBay this season -- 4-3 on Oct. 8 and 2-1 on Oct. 31. The Devils, who haven't lost to the Lightning since 2006-07, have won seven of their last eight home games and will host the Detroit Red Wings at the PrudentialCenter on Saturday.
The Devils rookies were rather feisty in sticking up for the veteran teammates throughout the course of the evening -- perhaps a sign the young group is getting a little anxious with the return of several veterans to the lineup. Coach Jacques Lemaire expects to have defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Jay Pandolfo for Saturday's game against the Detroit Red Wings. Devils defensemen Matt Corrente was involved in two scuffles and Mark Fraser was in one.
"It's was good to see," Langenbrunner said. "Matt plays with an edge and he's played with confidence and with some nastiness. It's always good to have those guys on your side and he wants to be here."
When asked who would be the odd player out when Pandolfo and Oduya return on Saturday, Lemaire laughed and said, "I got to (check with) all the brains that work with me."
|Vincent Lecavalier (6) ASST: Jeff Halpern (5)|
1 - 0 TBL
|PPG - Brian Rolston (9) ASST: Rob Niedermayer (6)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Niclas Bergfors (8) ASST: Vladimir Zharkov (1)|
2 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Steve Downie (4) ASST: Steven Stamkos (13), Ryan Malone (10)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Jamie Langenbrunner (6) ASST: Andy Greene (11), Brian Rolston (6)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Stephane Veilleux Hooking against Dean McAmmond|
|Matthew Corrente Fighting against James Wright|
|James Wright Fighting against Matthew Corrente|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Hooking against Steven Stamkos|
|Zenon Konopka Fighting against Matthew Corrente|
|Matthew Corrente Fighting against Zenon Konopka|
|Zach Parise Tripping against Alex Tanguay|
|Patrik Elias Cross checking against Ryan Malone|
|Mark Fraser Fighting against Ryan Malone|
|Ryan Malone Fighting against Mark Fraser|
|Lukas Krajicek Slashing against Zach Parise|
|Jeff Halpern Tripping against Mike Mottau|
|Steven Stamkos Tripping against Rob Niedermayer|
|Mark Fraser Hooking against Martin St. Louis|