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Lightning finish off win over Devils

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- It took a little over 48 hours to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were finally able to claim victory over the New Jersey Devils for the first time in 11 meetings after putting the finishing touches on a 4-2 decision Sunday at Prudential Center.

The remaining 29 minutes, 12 seconds of the game -- which started Friday -- were completed Sunday after a lighting malfunction forced a two-day postponement.

The game resumed right where it had left off -- with 9:12 remaining in the second period and Tampa Bay holding a 3-0 lead on goals by Steve Downie, Brandon Bochenski and Steven Stamkos.

The victory was certainly worth the wait for Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith, who would finish with 33 saves. It was Smith's first victory against the Devils in three career tries (1-0-2).

"I grew up watching Marty (Brodeur) and I guess anytime you can beat a guy like that, it's special," Smith told "He's played for so long and achieved so much. But the win is the most important thing against any team right now. That's a good hockey team we beat, and we should be really happy."

Smith lost his shutout bid 8:36 into the third when Travis Zajac took a no-look feed from Jamie Langenbrunner at the left hash before ripping home his 12th of the season.

"I knew going in they really had nothing to lose," Smith said. "They had half the game to get three goals and so I just prepared like it was a fresh start and went out in the first period, which was really the second period, and tried to get into it early. Fortunately, I had to make some saves right off the bat and that always helps."

Stamkos connected for his second of the game just 51 seconds after Zajac's goal to give the Lightning a 4-1 advantage. His one-timer from between the circles beat Devils goalie Yann Danis just inside the left post at 9:45. Martin St. Louis made the play happen when he beat Devils defenseman Andy Greene along the right-wing half boards before feeding Stamkos down the middle -- killing any momentum the home team had built.

"Marty deserves all the credit -- he hustled, beat that guy to the puck and then picked his pocket and allowed me a one-timer from the bottom of circle," Stamkos said. "So it was a great play by him and a big goal for our team. It helped relieve some pressure."

Particularly on Smith, who was pestered with 10 shots in the final 20 minutes.

"That kind of took the wind out of their sails," Smith said. "What a great play by Marty St. Louis to get the puck over to him though. You give a kid like that the time, he's going to bury most of those. It was big getting that three-goal lead again."

Devils forward Zach Parise would pare the margin to 4-2 on a goal with 33.2 seconds left in the game but it was too little, too late. The Devils, who finished 0-for-4 on the power-play, outshot the Lightning, 35-14.

"We had a lot of momentum after finally getting that goal (by Zajac) and I thought we controlled most of the play and had opportunities," Langenbrunner said. "That goal by Stamkos was a tough situation where all three of us got caught going a little too much. I made a bad read thinking Greenie was going to get to that puck and obviously St. Louis is pretty fast. If I realized (Greene) didn't have the angle, I probably would have tried to make it a little tougher on Stamkos."

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire opted to insert Danis (six saves) between the pipes on Sunday, citing Brodeur's recent workload as a reason. Brodeur allowed three goals on seven shots against the Lightning before Friday's blackout.

Brodeur, who leads the NHL with 28 victories this season, was coming off his 22nd straight start on Saturday -- a 2-1 overtime victory in Montreal -- and his 29th straight appearance. He's established career NHL records for regular-season games played (1,039), victories (585), shutouts (106) and minutes played (61,384).

The Devils appeared to pull within 3-1 with 3:58 left in the second when Parise jammed home a rebound beneath Smith, but only after the whistle had been blown for a stoppage. Smith initially denied Zajac and did attempt to cover up for a split second before Parise's attempt.

"I just wish there was a way (the referees) could read the players a little bit and see that Zach was waiting for that thing to pop out and how the goalie was in no danger," Langenbrunner said.

It was the third straight day both teams were in action. While the Devils were in Montreal, the Lightning dropped a 4-1 decision in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Players from both sides admitted feeling a bit fatigued.

"We showed battle and that was tough (to be denied a goal) on Zach's first play," Langenbrunner said. "The penalties we took early on took away any momentum. Any time you're killing four minutes in penalties over the first nine minutes it's going to be tough. Starting the game down 3-0 was also tough. You have to play a certain way, but press it a little bit too."

Said Stamkos: "It didn't even feel like a game day. Everyone prepared like it was a normal game; we had the same warm-ups and once we got going, it felt like a game day. But it was just weird knowing it's only half a game left. But we'll take it any way we can. We got the two points and that's all that matters."

The victory was the first for the Lightning over New Jersey since a 3-1 decision on Oct. 4, 2007.

"The legs didn't feel 100 percent, but obviously it was a different situation for us all," Smith said. "I think we made the most of it though, so, all in all, it turned out best for us."

On Friday, Stamkos' second period goal at the 10:04 mark had given the Lightning a 3-0 cushion. The sophomore forward powered his way through the slot, took a feed from St. Louis and roofed an attempt past Brodeur before falling into the end boards.

The two-assist game for St. Louis extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games -- he scored in the loss to the Flyers on Saturday. St. Louis, who leads Tampa with 38 assists and 49 points, has produced 5 goals and 9 assists during his scoring streak.

"You know you have that 3-0 lead but you don't want to sit back -- you want to have that mentality a little bit like it's a 0-0 game," Stamkos said. "Those two power plays we received midway through the second kind of helped us take their pressure away. We knew we were going to get a couple calls against us in the third but we killed them off and Smitty did a good job stopping a lot of pucks for us."

Forty-four seconds after Stamkos scored Friday -- on Tampa Bay's seventh shot of the game -- the lights behind Brodeur went dark. After a 1 hour, 42 minute delay, the game was officially postponed around 10:07 p.m. (ET).

Fans attending Friday's game could return for Sunday's completion and were also entitled to a free ticket to a future Devils game at Prudential Center. The Devils will outline a formal ticket policy detailing the free ticket offer on the club's web site on Tuesday. Prior to the start of the third period, the Devils invited all fans in the upper tier to take any seat in the lower sections of the arena.
NOTE: The last time an NHL game was postponed was on Nov. 22, 2005, when Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench after going into cardiac arrest with 7:30 left in the first period of a game against the Nashville Predators. Doctors had to perform CPR on Fischer. That game would resume play Jan. 23, 2006, with Nashville earning a 3-2 victory. The game originally scheduled for Jan. 23 between the teams was moved to March 30 -- Detroit scoring a 4-2 victory.

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