NEWARK–On Monday, the Devils made it a series. But in game four on Wednesday, they’ll try and shift momentum–or at least mute the conversation that this series is a mismatch.
After going down 2-0 in the series, the Devils needed some kind of spark on home ice. Even with last change, it was tough to combat Tampa’s forward depth. Jon Cooper juggled his lines and limited some of the effectiveness of matching lines. And when they twice offered up power play time to start the period with clean ice, the Devils paid for it in the form of two one-goal deficits. But something changed in the third, a period that’s been kind to New Jersey throughout the series.
Playing with a sense of urgency and down just one to start the third, the Devils got to their game yet again. They fired 20 shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy–one third period shot more than in game 2 on Saturday. They also drew the Lightning for three-straight power play’s, including a five-on-three opportunity that ushered in the equalizer and first of four unanswered New Jersey tallies.
So what is it with these third periods?
“That’s a good question,” John Hynes said. “I haven’t really put too much thought into what it is. It’s more of a ‘why have we played well in certain parts of the game and what are those things we need to continue to do to play well.’ There’s parts of the game where we haven’t played well and Tampa’s been the better team. It’s just trying to figure out that these are the things we have to do better and to get ourselves some momentum and when we do get the momentum, we carry the play and these are the reasons why.”
For Tampa, the third period and uncharacteristic penalty problems cost them the game.
“Our lack of discipline,” Cooper said when asked what cost his club the game. “Any momentum they gained in that game was just because of our penalties. It was just the type of penalties we took–every penalty was 200 feet from our net. We talk about that and we showed pretty good discipline for two periods. It was just too bad because I thought for two periods and when we got the go-ahead goal that we had pretty good control of the game. You can’t just keep taking the penalties.”
Hall, who will play in his fourth postseason game is coming off a hot home playoff debut, tallying the first goal at home since 2012 as part of a three-point night, knows the more time on the man-advantage means the less time for Tampa’s stars.
“We’re on the ice five-on-four–Stamkos and Kucherov aren’t out there,” Hall said. “They’re not getting puck touches or the ice time they want. That’s huge for us.”
Despite being outscored in the series, the Devils have outscored the Lightning 6-3 in the final 20, and are outshooting the club 45-24. Of the 13 minor penalties they’ve taken this postseason, only three have come in the third and only Taylor Hall (tripping) 17:14 into the period on Monday resulted in a power play–the Devils subsequently scored an empty-net shorthanded goal. In addition to being the most effective period, it’s also been one for series tone-setting.
“The first two games we had to really send a message in the third,” Stefan Noesen, who scored the third period go-ahead goal 12:55 in. “We had to make sure they knew we weren’t going to go down easily or without a fight. Third periods have been a lot better. I don’t know whether it’s us feeling more comfortable or the nervous energy getting out, whatever the case may be we had very good third periods.”
As expected, it’s also been a the most-spirited period, highlighted by five matching game misconducts in the final minute of play on Monday. It was the first time well-tempered Lightning lost its emotional edge.
“There was a lot of emotion on the bench,” Brian Boyle said following the conclusion of Monday’s game including a heated exchange with Tampa defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev. “It was a good emotion. I love our mix and the character we have as a team. We understand that we have to play physical and we have to stick together.”