For the Lightning, this game has some good – and some not-so-good. First, the not-so-good. Beforehand, Jon Cooper stressed the importance of getting the lead against the Devils, who, for the past 20 years, have been one of the most structured defensive clubs in the league. A failure to grab a lead, especially in New Jersey, has been one reason why the Bolts have only won three games here since the Prudential Center opened in 2007. Last year’s games in New Jersey between the clubs were two low scoring games, ones in which the Devils grabbed the lead – and never relinquished it. In this game, once again the Devils drew first blood, scoring on a power play just over three minutes in. That early goal against set the tone for the rest of the game. The Lightning spent nearly all of the final 57 minutes in regulation playing catch-up.
The Lightning’s special teams weren’t all that special. The Devils netted the early power play goal, plus nearly scored on their other two chances (they hit posts on both of them). The Lightning’s power play went 0-5, including a four-minute chance late in the third that didn’t produce a goal – the Bolts trailed at the time, 2-1.
Also, even though the Lightning enjoyed the majority of the puck possession, they did surrender at least a half dozen terrific scoring chances. Fortunately, Evgeni Nabokov stopped those New Jersey looks, which included in-alone chances for Andy Greene (twice in the first period), Patrik Elias (twice in the second and in OT), Michael Ryder (second period), Travis Zajac (second period) and Adam Henrique (third period).
Finally, they lost the shootout. True, it’s a skills competition and often, a coin toss (although the Devils lost 18 in a row over three seasons before breaking that streak earlier this year). But after this loss, the Bolts are 1-4 in the shootout and don’t want to keep leaving points on the table as the season progresses.
Now to the good. Coming back from a two-goal deficit to the Devils is no small feat. The Lightning deserve credit for their perseverance and fight – they battled right to the end and that tenacity helped them earn a point.
For most of the night, in terms of five-on-five play, the Lightning carried play. Their forechecking was effective and they had extended shifts in the offensive zone. Credit the Devils for defending well without the puck – they protected the front of the net throughout the night. New Jersey blocked 19 shots in the game. But not once did the Lightning try to “skill it” when they had the puck in the offensive zone – a move that would have likely resulted in a turnover. Instead, they stuck with the gameplan of trying to force pucks to the net and looking for rebounds or ricochets. Both of their goals resulted from such plays.
And, in the final minute, when the Lightning needed a big play, they actually received two of them. First, Jason Garrison adroitly blocked a clearing attempt from Peter Harrold and hurried the puck in front. It was not easily done – and the ensuing goal doesn’t get scored without Garrison’s play at the blue line. Second, Kucherov jumped on the loose puck after Garrison’s shot hit Ryan Callahan’s skate. He dragged it to the right circle, giving himself a shooting lane, and roofed a backhanded. Not a routine play. Thanks to Garrison and Kucherov, the Lightning rallied for the come-from-behind point.
On road trips, the Lightning aim to come home with more points than games played (over .500). That can’t happen on this five-game trip, as they’ve collected three points through the first four games. But if they can close out the trip with a win on Saturday against the Islanders, they’ll bring home five points. After they dropped the first two games on the trip in regulation, five points seemed like a tall order. Now it’s within reach.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov’s tying goal in the final minute of regulation, which salvaged a point.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Patrik Elias – Devils. Goal. GWG in SO.
2.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Tying goal in final minute of the third.
3.Evgeni Nabokov – Lightning. A handful of tremendous saves throughout the game.