NEWARK, N.J. -- It will forever be remembered as the night the lights went out at Prudential Center.
Not long after Steven Stamkos scored to give the Tampa Bay Lighting a commanding three-goal cushion with 9:56 remaining in the second period, a bank of house lights behind the goal defended by Martin Brodeur completely shut down -- for good, causing the game between the Lighting and Devils to be officially postponed 1 hour and 42 minutes after the problem initially occurred.
After consultation with the NHL Hockey Operations Department and both general managers of the teams -- Lou Lamoriello of the Devils and Brian Lawton of the Lightning -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman postponed the remainder of play due to concerns for the safety of the players and officials.
According to Lamoriello, the lights shut down following a circuit breaker malfunction.
"What happened was a circuit breaker went down -- I don't know which one it was," Lamoriello told the media. "PSE&G has been here and they determined that they would not get this fixed (Friday night). The officials, as you saw, went out to determine if there was enough light to play. They determined it was too risky in one end zone. Safety has to come first in a situation like this."
NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued the following statement following the postponement.
"We felt the teams could not continue playing. We tried for an hour and 42 minutes to restore power and appropriate lighting but were left with no alternative but to postpone further play for the evening."
As this was the fourth and final meeting between the clubs this season, a new date for the completion of the contest will have to be determined. It was also confirmed that play would be resumed from the point at which the lights went out -- with the Lightning holding a 3-0 lead and 9:12 remaining in the second.
An official announcement was made to the several thousand fans who awaited a decision at approximately 10:07 p.m. (EST). Lost in all the commotion of the blackout was the fact the Devils embark on a season-high five-game road trip beginning Saturday in Montreal so players' equipment bags were already filled and ready to go when most of the media arrived in the locker room area.
Following their game with the Canadiens, the Devils travel to Madison Square Garden to play the Rangers on Tuesday before heading to Phoenix on Thursday. Tampa Bay travels to Philadelphia on Saturday and then has three days off before returning home Tuesday to play host to the Washington Capitals.
Lamoriello would be surprised if the remaining portion of the game wasn't completed at Prudential Center.
"I would be awfully surprised if it wasn't played in the place it was originally scheduled to be played in," he said.
There was speculation among the media covering the game that the contest could possibly be picked up where it left off on Sunday at Prudential Center. The League will determine that, however.
"Things happen and obviously the Devils feel terrible about it," Lawton said. "It's out of their control. It's tough on the fans, tough on players and coaches. But we'll move forward. I think it's only logical that the game be picked back up from where it was with the score and, in order to maintain the integrity of the game, the sooner the better to be honest with you.
"With trades, injuries and things like that -- the one thing about the NHL is they have the intent of the highest integrity and this is a force de-jour event, so to speak," Lawton said. "But the NHL has always done a good job of maintaining (integrity)."
Stamkos' goal, his fifth in eight career games against New Jersey, had given the Lightning a 3-0 lead at 10:04 of the second. The sophomore forward powered his way through the slot, took a feed from Martin St. Louis and roofed an attempt past Brodeur before falling into the end boards.
Then, just 44 seconds later, Brodeur was left in the dark -- at approximately 8:15 p.m. (EST).
"We weren't given a time frame, so guys were stretching out and trying to stay loose," Stamkos said. "I've had the lights go out before but they came back on in 5-10 minutes."
Following a 10-minute delay, it was announced the teams would return to their respective locker rooms while repairs were done. Despite the efforts of PSE&G, power still could not be restored. Throughout the delay, Stamkos and teammates Ryan Malone and Steve Downie were shooting the breeze on the Lightning players' bench. Even Devils coach Jacques Lemaire popped his head out to see if the problem had been rectified.
"I've never seen anything like this in my playing career," Devils defenseman Mike Mottau said. "To kill time, we just kind of talked, hung out and rode the bike. If we do need to replay it, we will. We actually were playing pretty well and got kind of a bad break on their third goal, but we were confident in the room even during the break.
"We had a lot of first-period pressure in their zone and were getting chances, but they capitalized on their breaks and tightened up defensively."
The Devils held a 20-7 advantage in shots at the time of the blackout.
Lawton admitted discussing the possibility of resuming the game under the existing lights; obviously, that idea never came to fruition as it was just too dangerous.
"We tried our darnedest to get this game played," Lamoriello said. "We waited as long as we possibly could, in fact, even more so with the hope we could do something. I do not know Tampa's schedule and am not worried about it right now. I'm just worried about getting out of here tonight and into Montreal because these questions are out of my hands. The League will determine what we do and when we do it and that's the way it should be."
Lamoriello also asked those fans holding ticket stubs to Friday's game to keep checking newjerseydevils.com for updated information.
The partial blackout conjured up memories of Game 4 of the 1988 Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins when, with just 3:27 remaining in the second period of a 3-3 tie at Boston Garden, the arena went dark. The contest would eventually be called due to technical problems. It would be the first and only time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that a team would notch a four-game sweep in five games of a postseason series.
Edmonton scored a 6-3 victory over the Bruins at Northlands Coliseum in the series finale.
Brodeur, who earned his fifth shutout of the season and 106th of his career in a 4-0 victory over Dallas on Tuesday, was making his 21st straight start and his 28th straight appearance for the Devils on Friday.
The Lightning opened a 1-0 lead 6:58 into the first when Downie tipped in a blast from the point by Kurtis Foster under the outstretched glove of Brodeur. The power-play goal was only the sixth for the Lightning with the man advantage over their last 46 opportunities.
Prior to the goal, the Devils controlled much of the play in the opening five minutes, outshooting the Lightning, 5-1, before Rod Pelley was whistled for tripping at 5:46. Mike Smith's best save of the 14 he made in the opening period came off the stick of a red-hot Jamie Langenbrunner. Zach Parise broke down his left wing, drawing Tampa's Mattias Ohlund and Downie toward him, before feeding Langenbrunner alone in the slot. That's when Smith alertly slid to his left and stacked the pads to deny the Devils captain.
Brandon Bochenski, who was recalled from Norfolk on Saturday, scored his first goal of the season and second against the Devils in four career games at 5:03 of the second to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Bochenski was spot-on after Rob Niedermayer deflected an attempted pass right onto Bochenski's stick.
The journeyman forward, who had a team-leading 16 goals and 32 points in Norfolk, was playing in his 131st career NHL game spanning six seasons with six teams (Tampa Bay, Nashville, Anaheim, Boston, Chicago and Ottawa).