There were several positives to come out of this game. First of all, the Lightning kept their hopes for a division title alive. Second, their power play produced three goals in a game for the first time since opening night. Third, the Triplets, as they have often been in games this year, were the most dominant line on the ice and each player contributed three points. Fourth, Victor Hedman returned from injury and, as he told us on Lightning Radio during a postgame interview, felt he got better as the game progressed and therefore cited the importance of getting in some games before the playoffs begin.
It’s true that the Lightning didn’t play a perfect game. They surrendered three goals to the Devils and gave up some odd-man rushes along the way. But they still dictated play for long stretches of the game and certainly deserved the result they got.
The Devils can be a tough opponent because of their structured game. They become even tougher to break down when they get a lead. But the Lightning were able to rally after allowing an early power play goal to Steve Bernier. Just over a minute later, Nikita Kucherov danced from the right circle to the slot, then slid the puck back to the right circle, where Tyler Johnson put the puck into an open net. Nearly three minutes later, during a Tampa Bay power play, Nikita Nesterov gave the Bolts their first lead when he blasted a shot from the center point past Keith Kinkaid. The Lightning had several chances to add to their lead, but missed those opportunities – including an open net look for Kucherov late in the first.
The Devils didn’t apply consistent pressure in the offensive zone, but they did create some isolated looks. One of those led to a second period goal for Patrik Elias, who grabbed a loose puck at the right circle and roofed a shot over Ben Bishop’s glove. Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning a short-lived lead when he ripped a left circle shot past Kinkaid on another power play. But on the next shift, the Lightning fumbled the puck in their own zone and Adam Henrique set up Bernier for his second goal of the game. It was 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Both teams had dangerous chances in the third, but couldn’t score. New Jersey had 11 third period shots – and many of those came in the final few minutes of regulation time. Mike Cammelleri nearly scored in the closing minutes when he walked out from behind the Lightning net and banked a shot off the post. Then, with only seconds remaining in regulation, Tyler Johnson was tripped off the rush, denying him a potential scoring chance. The Lightning carried that power play into OT. Going for the win, Jon Cooper put four forwards on the ice – and was rewarded. Johnson banked the puck off Seth Helgeson into the New Jersey net for the winning goal.
Not only did the power play contribute three goals in this game, it has produced goals in five straight games, which is a high this year for the Lightning. The units are looking dangerous – and therefore building momentum even when they don’t score. It’s a great sign heading into the playoffs.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Johnson’s GWG in OT.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Two goals and assist.
2.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Three assists.
3.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Three assists.