NEWARK, N.J. -- Their general manager might be shipping off key players from the roster to secure future assets, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are not ready to give up on this season just yet even with the odds seemingly stacked against them.
Playing one day after getting blown out in Pittsburgh and without captain Vinny Lecavalier as well as top defenseman Victor Hedman, the Lightning got a hat trick and four points from veteran Martin St. Louis at the Prudential Center on Sunday to beat New Jersey, 4-3, and salvage what was left of a three-game road trip.
"We talked about it before the game, let's just make sure we keep hanging around," said St. Louis, who now has 22 goals this season, giving him 20 or more in nine straight seasons. "You never know what can happen. Let's give ourselves a chance, and we did that by getting the two points."
St. Louis scored twice in the second period and once more in the third. His hat-trick goal proved to be the game-winner as Zach Parise sliced Tampa Bay's two-goal lead in half with a power-play goal with less than three minutes left.
St. Louis assisted on Matt Gilroy's goal early in the third period, but he also went to the penalty box for tripping with one minute remaining and the Lightning holding a one-goal lead.
The Devils pulled Martin Brodeur (12 saves), creating a 6-on-4, but the Lightning were able to kill it off and hold on for the regulation win that moved them into 11th place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets.
"Obviously we have a lot of adversity on our side," Steven Stamkos told NHL.com. "We're missing Vinny. We're missing Hedman. The odds are against us right now, but we're just going out there and doing the best that we can. We still do believe in this room. There are still 20 games left. That's a lot of hockey. You get confidence, you go on a streak, and anything can happen, maybe surprise a few teams. We have the pieces here that can win hockey games. You saw that today."
It's a different story for the Devils, who entered Friday's game against Vancouver as the fourth-place team in the Eastern Conference with wins in four straight games and points in 11 of their last 12 (9-1-2). Now they've lost back-to-back one-goal games in regulation and are sixth heading into Monday's showdown at Madison Square Garden against the East-leading New York Rangers.
"Regardless of where these guys (the Lightning) are in the standings they have some really good players and they won the game for them," Parise said. "The way the standings are, the way we need to play, it's hard but you should be able to, regardless of who you're playing against, bring that intensity. Whether a team is first in the conference or you're playing (the Lightning), it's going to be a hard game. That's how equal everything is. We have to do a better job."
The Devils blamed their own mistakes for the loss.
St. Louis scored his first goal 6:39 into the second period on a 2-on-0 with Stamkos created off a bad change and Cam Janssen's inability to block Mathieu Garon's breakout pass at the right point. He scored his second goal on the power play just over eight minutes later when he slammed in a pinballing puck from the right side.
Petr Sykora scored 2:28 into the third period to tie the game at 2-2, but the Devils gave it back 41 seconds later when Teddy Purcell, St. Louis and Gilroy formed a rush that resulted in a tap-in goal for Gilroy. The Devils had three players too deep in the offensive zone and were chasing Tampa's three-man rush the entire way down the ice.
Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who was playing for the first time in 10 games due to a sore lower back, was caught too high on the strong side in the defensive zone as Purcell slid a pass through him to St. Louis, who set up Gilroy in front.
St. Louis made it 4-2 just over seven minutes later when he gained position on Larsson in front of the net and re-directed Purcell's pass from the front of the net.
"They got a break, got a 2-on-0, they scored. They got a power play, they scored," Brodeur said. "We're right behind the eight ball. At this time of the year you're going to face teams like that and you have to find ways to win. We battled back, but our mistakes were the difference."
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said his team looked like it was "asleep" at times.
"We talked about them getting beat like they did in Pittsburgh, that they have guys in their room with a lot of pride and obviously St. Louis would be at the top of that list," DeBoer said. "You knew you were going to see their best game. We didn't respond in the right way."
After Saturday's trouncing, the Lightning most certainly did. With a quarter of the season left, they're not ready to throw in the white towel.
"You want to fight until the end," St. Louis said. "This is our playoff right now. We're just trying to survive. We did that today by getting the two points."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
1 - 0 NJD
Martin St. Louis
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Martin St. Louis
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Martin St. Louis
3 - 2 TBL
Martin St. Louis