NEWARK, N.J. — The Tampa Bay Lightning looked to wrap up a three game road trip on a high note, but the New Jersey Devils had other plans as they inched closer to punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After most of the first period had been played with each goaltender keeping pucks out of their respective nets, a Victor Hedman shot deflected off Steven Stamkos and trickled to Ryan Malone who buried the puck past Martin Brodeur with 44 seconds left in the opening frame.
The second period was a back and forth battle that included six goals combined, with the Devils outscoring the Lightning 4-2 in the period.
Coming into Thursday night’s game New Jersey had a league leading 14 shorthanded goals and they padded that stat when Patrick Elias threw a saucer pass over Hedman’s stick on a two on one with Dainius Zubrus.
“That got us going a little bit emotionally,” Elias said. “I thought we came out in the first period flat, and nothing was happening — we couldn’t get a forecheck going at all. They got a lead there, but that shorty got us going.”
Malone added two more goals in the second recording his fourth career NHL hat trick. This was the second hat trick Brodeur has given up to the Lightning this season. The previous one came on February 26th from Martin St. Louis.
“Everything [Malone] touched went in,” Brodeur said. “He was Johnny-on-the-spot on his first two goals and made a good play on third. He’s a big power forward, and we had a hard time getting him out in front of our net.”
New Jersey chased Roloson away with two more goals in the early stages of the third period. Alexei Ponikarovsky redirected a Bryce Salvador shot that came from the point at the 2:25 mark before David Clarkson added his 29th goal of the season at 6:05.
Roloson gave up all six goals on 34 shots he faced before being replaced by Sebastien Caron in the third period. During the second period Caron did appear to be replacing Roloson but returned to the bench as Roloson would remain in.
Trevor Smith added Tampa Bay’s fourth goal in the dying seconds of regulation.
Brodeur stopped 16 of the 20 shots he faced.
Tampa Bay has given up 38 shots in each of the last 3 games, which has resulted in being outshot 114-53 during that span.
“We threw [the game] away,” Boucher said. “We got what we deserved. There is a lack of urgency because of the ultimate goal, but that’s something we have to manage. We have no right to change our game and be soft and get away from what makes us successful. In the last three games, our second period hasn’t been good.
“What works is the simple stuff and we get into the fancy stuff. We stop shooting and try to stickhandle through guys, we turn the puck over and that costs us momentum, cost us goals and gives the other team all the momentum.”
For New Jersey, despite getting the two points in the standings, were not able to clinch their 14th playoff appearance in last 15 seasons due to Washington’s overtime win against Boston.
“It would have been nice to clinch, but we’re in a good spot,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “If we continue to do what we did tonight, we shouldn’t worry.”
Ryan Malone’s hat trick was the fifth recorded by a member of the Lightning this season. Stamkos (11/4 vs. CHI and 12/31 vs. CAR), St. Louis (2/4 vs. FLA and 2/26 vs. NJD).
Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier returned to the lineup Thursday, recorded a shot on goal and was a minus one during 17:38 of total ice time.
Nate Thompson continued to practice in a red no contact jersey on Thursday, but could return to the lineup as early as Saturday.
Tampa Bay returns to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for one more homestand against Winnipeg on Saturday before taking on Washington on Monday.