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Thompson's two help Lightning over skidding Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher was just glad to see his players finally rewarded for a solid performance.

After watching strong efforts go to waste due to brief lapses in previous games, the Lightning were able to snap a five-game losing streak Tuesday behind strong team play and 25 saves from Anders Lindback en route to a 5-2 decision over the New Jersey Devils before 15,229 fans at Prudential Center.

"We've been building for a long time," Boucher said. "Everybody's been looking at the result, but during our last 10 games, we've played one bad one (against the New York Rangers on Feb. 28). The rest of those games, we deserved [to win] or at least deserved a tie for overtime. But it was our fault.

"We sabotaged ourselves by being very impatient and turning that puck over at the wrong moments. I told the players a thousand times: Get rid of that impatience and we'll be solid because we're going to get offensive chances without pressing. That's what we got [against the Devils]."

Nate Thompson struck for a career-high two goals, and Martin St. Louis (one goal, one assist), Alexander Killorn (one goal, one assist), Vincent Lecavalier (two assists) and Cory Conacher (two assists) chipped in with two points apiece for the Lightning, who play five of their next six games on home ice.

Killorn's goal, his fourth of the season, gave Tampa Bay (10-12-1) a 3-0 lead 13:13 into the second period.

Thompson's second goal of the game 8:36 into the third gave the visitors a 4-0 advantage and sent many of the hometown fans to the exits. Those who remained witnessed an entertaining finish as the Devils rallied for two goals in a span of 1:31 to close the gap.

Adam Henrique denied Lindback his first shutout of the season when he scored off a nifty backhand attempt in front at the 13:44 mark. The shorthanded goal was a League-leading sixth for the Devils.

"I've been in those situations before where late in the game a lot of things tend to happen where the team is going for the push," Lindback said. "Obviously, you're hoping for the shutout, but the most important thing is winning."

Patrik Elias then connected for a power-play goal off a scramble in the slot off assists from Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk at 15:15 to pull the Devils within 4-2. After Elias scored his first goal in six games, Boucher called timeout.

"I just took that timeout to remind the players how we were playing at 2-0 … we were playing terrific and not giving anything," Boucher said. "I said, 'Play the same way.' The team played calm and closed the game out."

Thompson, who was twice assisted by Conacher, said every player was focused even after giving up the two quick goals.

"We were relaxed and we wanted to stay calm and stick with game plan," Thompson said. "We didn't want to get too overzealous. Just play our game and manage it."

The victory enabled the Lightning to avenge a 4-2 loss to the Devils from Feb. 7. The Devils have lost six straight (0-5-1) for the first time since Dec. 17 to Dec. 29, 2010.

Killorn's goal forced Devils coach Peter DeBoer to replace starting goalie Johan Hedberg with backup Keith Kinkaid. Hedberg, who allowed three goals on 11 shots, has lost his past seven starts. Martin Brodeur is on injured reserve with back soreness.

"I made a change to try and kick start our team … it's a tool we've used before," DeBoer said. "We're busy this week and we'll need [Hedberg] back on Thursday [against the Buffalo Sabres]. Kinkaid stepped in and gave us some energy and did a nice job."

Kinkaid's best save came 1:08 into the third when he denied Steven Stamkos off a breakaway by extending his left pad and turning away the NHL's leading goal-scorer.

Kinkaid, making his NHL debut, finished with 12 saves. His appearance marked the first time since December 2010 that a goalie other than Brodeur or Hedberg was playing between the Devils' pipes.

"I'm hoping this is rock bottom and we can start getting off the mat and getting up and on to bigger and better things," DeBoer said. "This is our adversity. Every team faces it at different points in the year. This is ours."

Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead early in the second when Killorn received a feed from Lecavalier at the Devils blueline, patiently skated into the zone and took the puck backhand-to-forehand before feeding St. Louis at the left post. He made no mistake, dropping in his sixth goal of the season to Hedberg's short side at 5:53.

"This was a huge game since we've been losing a couple in a row and had a tough trip against some good teams," Lindback said. "I think we've been playing good overall, but we've just been struggling in situations. I think we worked hard all game and it paid off."

The Lightning opened a 1-0 lead 17:04 into the first when Thompson took a pass from Conacher down the slot and snapped home his first goal in 10 games past Hedberg.

"Cory made great plays out there … I really didn't have to do much more than just put it on net," Thompson said. "Whenever you get a win like this, it builds confidence. We can take this momentum into the next game (Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets) and keep it rolling."

Lindback, making his first start since Feb. 24 in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, looked sharp in the opening period with nine saves.

"It was a huge confidence builder for him to get a win and get a big win for our team," defenseman Matt Carle said of Lindback. "We have to build on it now."


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