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game recap

Drouin scores game-winner in return to lineup

Forward hadn't played in NHL since December; Lightning defeat Devils

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com staff writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Right wing Jonathan Drouin scored his first NHL game-winning goal in his return to the lineup on Thursday to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Drouin, recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Wednesday played his first NHL game since Dec. 30, and scored his first goal since Dec. 2. He controlled a drop pass from Vladislav Namestnikov in the right circle and took a wrist shot that beat goaltender Keith Kinkaid between the pads for a 3-1 lead 3:50 into the third period. It was Drouin's third goal of the season.

"I kind of blacked out a little bit [after the goal]," Drouin said. "Just all the emotions going through your body. I was really happy and it was definitely a big goal in the game, too.

"The puck kind of jumped a little bit going high-glove there; half the time when you miss your shot they go in," Drouin said.

Video: TBL@NJD: Drouin nets an insurance goal in the 3rd

The Lightning (46-30-5) clinched second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will either play the Detroit Red Wings or Boston Bruins.

"I think you look back on the year and we had a lot of expectations coming in and if we were going to sit here and say, 'Hey, we'll have home ice in the playoffs in the first round, will you take that?' We're taking that all day," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We didn't win the Presidents' Trophy but we we're going to be second in [the Atlantic Division], getting home ice [in the Eastern Conference First Round] and bringing playoff hockey back to our fans in Tampa.

"Our fans deserve to see that again and we'll try to replicate what we did last year [reaching the Stanley Cup Final]."

Erik Condra, Cedric Paquette and Valtteri Filppula scored and Ben Bishop made 20 saves when the Lightning ended a two-game losing streak. Tampa Bay has won four straight against New Jersey, including all three games this season by a combined score of 11-3.

Video: TBL@NJD: Condra jams home rebound for early lead

The Lightning were without four players: forwards Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and Ryan Callahan (lower body), and defensemen Anton Stralman (fractured fibula) and Victor Hedman (upper body). Stamkos has missed the past four games and will be out at least a month. Stralman was injured on March 25 and will miss at least the first round of the playoffs.

Hedman said Thursday he might return to the lineup on Saturday at the Montreal Canadiens. Callahan is doubtful for the game.

"Every team deals with injuries but it's how you approach things," defenseman Matt Carle, who played 21:14 said. "Guys will be getting more minutes like myself and I have to take advantage of it. You are put in situations you wouldn't typically be put in so you run with it and enjoy it."

Sergey Kalinin scored twice and Keith Kinkaid made 18 saves for the Devils. New Jersey (37-35-8), which has lost six of its past seven games (1-5-1), will end the regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Video: TBL@NJD: Kalinin's second goal cuts deficit in half

Kalinin's second goal of the game midway through the third period cut the deficit to 3-2. Kalinin took a pass from Bobby Farnham at the right post and jammed a shot past Bishop at 9:26. It was Kalinin's first multiple-goal game of his NHL career.

Filppula scored into an empty net with Kinkaid pulled for an extra attacker with 46.5 seconds remaining.

The Lightning are 35-3-3 when scoring at least three goals. Coach Jon Cooper is hopeful the addition of Drouin will provide more offensive depth heading into the playoffs. Drouin had nine goals and 10 points in the past nine games in Syracuse, and 11 goals and 13 points in 17 AHL games this season.

"He scored the game-winner but what I liked more was that he led our team with four shots and I thought as the game went on he got stronger and stronger," Cooper said. "I thought that line was very good with [ Namestnikov and Alex Killorn]. I'm happy for him.

"We brought him back because he earned a spot down the AHL and [on Thursday] he steps into the lineup and helps us win a hockey game."

Video: TBL@NJD: Paquette's one-timer puts Bolts back on top

Paquette scored his sixth of the season to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead in the second when he took a pass from Filppula and shot a one-timer past Kinkaid at 14:45.

Kalinin scored his first goal in 20 games to tie the game, 1-1 in the second. Stephen Gionta won a faceoff and John Moore took a slap shot from the right point that deflected off Kalinin and past Bishop at 7:16. Kalinin missed at giving the Devils the lead when he broke in alone 43 seconds after tying the game but was stopped by Bishop.

"We didn't get the end result we wanted but I thought the game was better, more competitive and you could see some things we wanted to do and execute," Devils coach John Hynes said. "We were able to do more than we were [in a 3-1 loss against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday]."

Condra gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead when he scored off a rebound from the bottom of the left circle at 5:46. Andrej Sustr took the initial shot from the right circle that went off the long-side post and onto the stick of Condra for his sixth of the season.

Video: Lightning beat Devils, secure home ice in first round

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