After a slow start to the 2008-09 season, Dainius Zubrus
was hopeful that things were going to turn around sooner rather than later.
But not even he could have expected the output he enjoyed on Sunday.
Zubrus tied a New Jersey Devils
record by scoring four goals, leading his team to a 7-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning
at the St. Pete Times Forum. It was New Jersey's fourth straight victory.
''I had chances,'' said Zubrus, who entered the contest with just 2 goals on the season. ''Since I've played with Brian Gionta
and Patrik Elias
, I've had more chances than I had before. They just started going in.''
, Zach Parise
and Gionta had the other New Jersey goals, while Elias had 3 assists, all coming on Zubrus goals.
''You know what? We're playing hockey,'' Devils coach Brent Sutter
said. ''It's going from our dressing room right on to the bench and out onto the ice. We're getting contributions from everybody. Everyone is just doing their job and playing a sound team game, and that's really important and they're being rewarded for it."
Zubrus completed his 4-goal effort in the third with a breakaway goal at 7:22 and on a shot from the slot with 5:22 left to play.
''He played a heck of a game,'' Sutter said. ''Just not the goals he scored, but he was very good down low and in our zone. Very strong. Very solid.''
Rupp and Parise scored the Devils' first 2 goals in a first period that saw New Jersey outshoot Tampa Bay by a margin of 15-6. Rupp put the Devils up 1-0 1:44 into the game on a nifty redirection from the left circle, which snapped a personal 19-game goal-scoring drought. Parise put New Jersey up by a pair from the top of the left circle during a delayed penalty call at 17:37.
Zubrus ended a personal drought when he scored his first goal in 11 games at 1:58 of the second. His second goal of the day, which came 2:36 later, gave the Devils a four-goal advantage. New Jersey chased starting goalie Olaf Kolzig
at 11:39 of the second period, when Gionta's goal gave New Jersey a 5-0 lead.
''Pretty bad effort,'' said Rick Tocchet
, who fell to 1-2-1 as interim coach of the Lightning. ''A dud.''
Kolzig got the starting nod due to Mike Smith
's lower-body injury. He stopped 23 of 28 shots. He was replaced by Karri Ramo
''I definitely needed to be better,'' Kolzig said. ''No question, three goals I should have had. I really can't speak for anybody else because of the way I played.''
Added Tocchet: "There wasn't a lot of grit in front of him."
The Lightning battled back after the goalie switch, scoring 3 quick goals. After goals by Radim Vrbata
(13:08) and Martin St. Louis
(14:40), Ryan Malone
cut the deficit to 5-3 by beating Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen
on a penalty shot with 3:18 left in the second.
But Tampa Bay allowed 14 more shots in the third period, when Zubrus put the game away with 2 more tallies. Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier
had just 1 shot on goal and was a minus-4, as was Malone.
''We took a huge step back,'' St. Louis said. ''It's really disappointing.''
Material from wire services was used in this report.