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Why we're watching: Bolts survive back-and-forth battle with Devils

With FOX set to re-air the Lightning's October 30th win over the Devils on Thursday, Bryan Burns lists four reasons why it's must-see TV

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

While the NHL is on a temporary break due to the coronavirus, that doesn't mean hockey has to completely go dark.

Throughout the upcoming weeks, FOX Sports Sun will re-air wins from the Tampa Bay Lightning 2019-20 season, those games that became instant classics for Bolts fans. Remember when Victor Hedman scored a power-play goal in his home country during the NHL Global Series games in Stockholm? Or how Lightning rookie forward Carter Verhaeghe recorded a hat trick in a 9-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks?

Now you can re-live those moments and many more while holed up in your house.

Next up Thursday, March 26 at 8 p.m.: Tampa Bay's wild 7-6 overtime win in New Jersey on October 30, a game in which the Lightning trailed by two goals in the third period, scored three-consecutive goals to take the lead, gave up the game-tying goal with eight seconds left but recovered from that gut punch at the end of regulation to win in the extra session.

Here's why this victory over the Devils is must-see TV for Lightning fans.

Video: TBL@NJD: Johnson one-times the game-winner in OT

You'll want to watch this win just for the animated call from play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham on Tyler Johnson's overtime game-winner.

Johnson's final nail in the Devils' coffin was worthy of Peckham's exuberance.

On the winning play, the Lightning were able to get a line change in the offensive zone during the 3-on-3 overtime session. With a fresh set of legs on the ice in the form of Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh, the Lightning gained the advantage and were able to capitalize.

Palat raced back to keep the puck in the zone and start the scoring play. He skated into the slot and fired a wrist shot that forced a save from Cory Schneider. McDonagh pounced on the rebound, but his good look into an open net was stopped miraculously by Schneider's paddle in a diving effort.

Palat didn't give up on the play, however.

He hurriedly retrieved the puck behind the net, and with the Devils still scrambling to sort themselves out, found a wide-open Johnson in the bottom of the right circle.

Johnson hammered home a one-timer, and the Lightning escaped the Prudential Center with a much-needed 7-6 victory at a time of the season when wins were hard to come by for the Bolts.

 Video: Palat scores two, Johnson wins it in overtime

Make no mistake, despite the win this game might have been Tampa Bay's worst effort of the season defensively.

The Lightning were without Victor Hedman, who was injured a night earlier in a 4-1 loss at the New York Rangers. But even without their Norris Trophy candidate defenseman, giving up six goals to the Devils, who were ranked at the bottom of the NHL standings at the time of the contest, is unacceptable.

The Bolts had an opportunity to take control of the game after scoring two-straight goals to close out the first period and continuing that momentum into the second period. Defensively, however, they were completely loose, exhibiting poor coverage in their own zone, allowing Devils to get inside of them in scoring areas, unwilling to make the physical play to eliminate scoring threats and sloppy puck management all over the ice.

Take New Jersey's third goal for instance. Will Butcher shoots from the left point, and Kyle Palmieri is lurking in the left circle to tip it, sending it past Curtis McElhinney. But Jack Hughes is waiting in front of the net as well, Mikhail Sergachev letting him set up without much resistance. This is a perfect example of how much Sergachev's game has grown this season. The Sergachev of January, February, March would have put a body on Hughes and tied him up to render him ineffective. Sergachev's increased physicality has taken his game to another level. Here though, Hughes is allowed to roam free. He doesn't figure in the scoring play, but it certainly doesn't help McElhinney to have an opponent taking away his eyes in front of the crease and providing an option he has to account for.

Same thing on New Jersey's late game-tying goal with eight seconds to play. Butcher throws a puck on the net from the left point. McElhinney makes the save, but Palmieri is skating unencumbered outside the crease to backhand the rebound and complete his hat trick with nobody on the Lightning accounting for him. And if it wasn't Palmeiri scoring, Wayne Simmonds was also skating freely in front of the net and likely would have had the same rebound opportunity too.

We might be watching this game because we're starved for hockey and the back-and-forth nature of the contest was certainly exciting from a fan perspective. Lightning players and coaches, however, would probably like to erase this game from their collective memory.

If nothing else, this win serves as a reminder just how far the Lightning have come defensively since the first month of the season.

 Video: TBL@NJD: Joseph banks in goal off defender

Ten separate Bolts registered at least one point in Tampa Bay's 7-6 overtime win in New Jersey.

Leading scorers Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman weren't on that scoresheet, though.

Hedman was absent after suffering a lower-body injury a night earlier. Kucherov and Stamkos played but combined for just four shots and couldn't find the back of the net on any.

Instead, it was the Lightning's secondary scoring that came through underscoring just how potent the Bolts' attack can be even when their major scoring threats aren't going.

Six different players scored goals for the Bolts.

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point each registered three points on the night, Palat scoring a pair of goals for his only multi-goal game of the season and 12th of his career.

Of Palat's performance, Johnson had high praise for his linemate following the game.
"When Ondrej has confidence, has the puck, and plays big, he's my favorite player," Johnson said. "I love playing with him and watching him play. He's probably been our best player this season."

Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli each provided a goal and an assist for the Lightning. Kevin Shattenkirk tallied a pair of assists to continue his torrid scoring pace to start the season. Shattenkirk registered points in 11 of his first 16 games with the Lightning, notching five goals and 10 assists over that stretch.

Four of Tampa Bay's six defenseman contributed at least a point.

What the win in New Jersey showed was Tampa Bay didn't always need to rely on its main point producers to power the offense.

The Lightning have plenty of capable secondary scorers who can drive the bus when the top line is shut down.

Photo Gallery: Lightning at Devils

With an injury to Pat Maroon a night earlier against the Rangers, the Lightning recalled Alexander Volkov from their AHL affiliate in Syracuse to fill in.

Volkov made his NHL debut in New Jersey and was given a heck of an opportunity, placed on the Bolts' top line alongside Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

Volkov's performance was what one might expect from a rookie making his NHL debut, especially one who had to travel five hours by car earlier in the day to get to New York City from Syracuse: a bit uneven with glimpses of optimism for the future.

Volkov skated nearly 13 minutes, dished out a hit and took two face-offs, losing both. He and his line failed to produce a point, but Volkov didn't look lost playing alongside bonafide NHL superstars either.

If anything, his play left us wanting to see more.

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