The Tampa Bay Lightning proved for the second straight game that they have no trouble beating teams riding eight-game win streaks.
If Friday night’s 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils is any indication, it might not be long before they win eight straight themselves.
Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne each scored second-period goals, and Dwayne Roloson pitched in a 19-save effort for the Lightning, who wrapped up an NHL record-tying 12-game home stand with seven wins.
“We started extremely strong and we finished extremely strong,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s major proof of our character.”
Tampa Bay opened the 12-game swing with three consecutive victories, and endured a stretch that included losses in three out of four, but rebounded with two straight wins to finish the home stand 7-3-2.
“We’re happy,” center Steven Stamkos said. “There were a couple of low spots, but I think we were able to bounce back pretty quickly. We wanted to get two big wins over two of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, and we accomplished that.”
Tampa Bay also stopped Phoenix’s stretch of eight victories in a row with an 8-3 win Wednesday night.
Mark Fayne spoiled Roloson’s shutout bid at 8:13 of the final period. The Lightning net minder faced just 12 shots through the first 40 minutes and 20 over the course of the night, two more than the lowest total faced all season.
New Jersey is 16-2-2 in its last 20 games. It’s eight-game run tied for the second-longest in the NHL this season.
“We prepared real hard to play against these guys,” Boucher added. “They were an unbeatable team, just like Phoenix.”
Johan Hedberg kept it close through the first period, but gave up a pair of quick goals off draws that mired the Devils in a 2-0 hole early in the second frame.
“This was a night where the wasn’t a lot there,” Lightning forward Dominic Moore said. “We stuck with it and we were opportunistic with those faceoff goals.”
After St. Louis beat the Devils goalie from the top of the left circle at 2:20 of the second, Gagne doubled the lead from near the right circle 54 seconds later.
Hedberg, making his eighth straight start, had allowed just one goal over his previous three games. He finished the contest with 28 saves on 30 shots.
“I think they are a really, really good hockey team,” Hedberg said of the Lightning. “They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Fayne’s fourth of the season cut the deficit in half midway through the third.
Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire thought his team could have had more, as it outshot Tampa Bay in the third period and seemed to pick up the tempo after Fayne made it 2-1 at 8:13.
“We had a chance to score on two breakaways,” Lemaire said. “We could have gotten a goal and that would have changed the momentum. You could see that when we scored we were all over them at that point.”
St. Louis’ goal extended his season-high point streak to eight games, the NHL’s second longest active streak behind the Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk, who pushed his own streak to 12 games with an assist.
“I am extremely proud of our leadership group and the entire room,” Boucher said. “This was a very, very difficult game to win that couldn’t have been more like the playoffs. Tonight was exactly what they playoffs are going to be.”
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