Devils Try to Shut Down Stamkos, Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have lit up scoreboards this season, racing out to the best offensive output in the league. But after losing two games, scoring just three goals, the New Jersey Devils might have them at the right time.

The Devils will host the Lightning tonight at the Prudential Center.

Tampa Bay (6-3-0) has scored 40 goals scored in just nine games, an average of 4.44 goals per game. New Jersey (5-1-3) sits at the other end of the spectrum, with 23 goals scored this season. They average 2.56 goals per game, good for 16th in the league. The Lightning has maintained its lead despite scoring just three goals in its last two games, both losses.

“They’re dangerous,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “This is a tough week for us against some of the elite teams in the league. A lot like Pittsburgh, if you turn the puck over, you make bad decisions, they make you pay very quickly.”

New Jersey has rebounded after allowing five goals in losses to both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils have won consecutive games with a strong penalty kill and timely goaltending.

Heading into tonight’s contest, New Jersey has held opponents scoreless on 12 straight powerplay opportunities. The tandem of Johan Hedberg and Martin Brodeur held opponents in check, allowing just one goal on 47 shots.

DeBoer believes New Jersey has yet to hit its stride.

“I would say we’re getting closer,” he told Gulitti. “I think the game in Long Island (3-0 win Sunday), the game in Boston (2-1 shootout loss on Jan. 29) have been our two best team games so far and they’ve been 1-0, 1-1 games. I think we’re heading in that direction, but I wouldn’t put the Ranger game last night (3-1 victory) in that category. We got a little sloppy in some areas at different points and, thankfully, it didn’t bite us.”

The Devils defeated the New York Rangers, 3-1, Tuesday night in the first game of the season between the two rivals. New Jersey held the Rangers scoreless on four powerplay opportunities in the first period, including a double-minor to Andy Greene. Adam Henrique and David Clarkson scored first period goals for New Jersey, the first opening period scores since January 25th against the Washington Capitals.

Clarkson finished with three points (2g, 1a), his first multi-goal effort of the season. Patrik Elias collected three assists, his third multi-point game of the season.

Brodeur stopped 24 shots, including several quality scoring chances in the third period, for his fourth win of the season. The Devils goalie enters tonight 4-1-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and one shutout.

Steven Stamkos leads the potent Lightning offense into tonight’s matchup. The center is second in the NHL with 16 points (7g, 9a). He’s tied with Clarkson and two others for third in the league in goals. Martin St. Louis is tied for the league lead with 11 assists. Rookie Cory Conacher is tops among first year players, leading in points (12), goals (5), assists (7) and plus/minus rating (plus-7).

Newcomer Anders Lindback is the team’s top goalie, entering tonight’s game 5-2-0 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

The Philadelphia Flyers held Tampa Bay to just one goal Tuesday night, winning 2-1 in Philadelphia. Tom Sestito led the way with two goals. Benoit Pouliot scored the Lightning’s lone goal, a third period tally. Lindback stopped 22 of 24 shots in the loss.

This is the first of three meetings between the two teams this year, and the first of two games at the Prudential Center. Here is a look at last season’s matchup:

November 19, 2011: Devils – 4, Lightning – 2 @ Tampa Bay Times Forum

New Jersey took the opening game of the four-game season series, with Clarkson and Ryan Carter leading the way. Both finished with a goal and an assist. Dainius Zubrus and Elias also scored for New Jersey. St. Louis and Ryan Shannon scored for the Lightning. Brodeur finished with 21 saves, and Dwayne Roloson allowed the four goals on 24 shots against.

December 12, 2011: Devils – 5, Lightning – 4 @ Tampa Bay Times Forum

New Jersey took its second straight game, needing to score five goals to win both of its games in Tampa Bay. Henrique led the Devils, finishing with three points (1g, 2a). Petr Sykora scored just 28 seconds into regulation, and Zach Parise opened the second period with a goal 56 seconds in. But Tampa Bay responded, with Stamkos leading the way (2g, 1a). Matt Gilroy and Vincent Lecavlier finished with two points.

Hedberg, making his first start against the Lightning, stopped 32 shots. Rolson made just nine saves on 12 shots and was pulled from the game after just 20:56. Mathieu Garon didn’t fare much better, allowing two goals on 10 shots in 37:57 of relief. Garon was given the loss.

February 26, 2012: Lightning – 4, Devils – 3 @ Prudential Center

The Lightning won their only game of the season series, snapping a two-game skid to the Devils at the Prudential Center. St. Louis led the charge, recording a hat trick. Gilroy also scored for the Lightning, who scored four times on just 16 shots. Alexei Ponikarovsky, Sykora and Pairse scored for New Jersey in the loss. Brodeur made just 12 saves, and Garon bounced back against New Jersey, stopping 19 of 22 shots in the win.

March 29, 2012: Devils – 6, Lightning – 4 @ Prudential Center

The Devils saved its best performance for last, hanging six goals on the Lightning to win the final game of the series. Six different Devils scored for New Jersey. Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Clarkson all finished with multi-point games. That helped overcome a Ryan Malone hat trick, the second straight game a Lightning player scored three times against Brodeur. The Devils goalie stopped 16 of 20 shots for his second win over the Lightning. Roloson was once again pulled, this time allowing four goals on 34 shots in 41:05. Backup Sebastien Caron stopped all four shots he faced in relief.

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