The Tampa Bay Lightning nearly made the best of limited opportunities.
Despite being held to just 16 shots on the night, the Lightning took a one-goal lead through almost the full 40 minutes to start the game, including converting on one of two power plays, but in a rare instance, came up on the short end of its third straight one-goal game.
Dominic Moore had a second-period goal and Dwayne Roloson stopped 25 of 27 shots for the Lightning, who fell for just the first time in their last four in a 2-1 decision to the New Jersey Devils Wednesday night.
“It’s what we expected,” Moore said. “These are great games for us to play. They’re a tight defensive team and there weren’t a lot of chances either way, but these games give us a chance to prove ourselves.”
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the go-ahead goal at 10:10 in the final period for New Jersey, who has won 18 of its last 22 games.
Henrik Tallinder also scored for the Devils, who had an eight-game win streak snapped by Tampa Bay in the teams’ most recent meeting last Friday. Martin Brodeur turned in 15 saves.
“They’re a tight checking team,” Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said. “They’re not going to give you a chance to get the game going. You’re going to have to grind it out because you know they’re not going to give you a lot of opportunities.”
Tampa Bay had won each of its previous two games by one-goal decisions. Wednesday’s loss was the team’s third straight game determined by a 2-1 score.
Kubina’s shot on the power play hit Moore’s skate out in front and opened the scoring to put Tampa Bay up 1-0 at 4:41 of the second.
“We knew that we had to have a good power play tonight,” Kubina said. “I knew Mooresy was in front of the net so I just tried to shoot it around there and hope for a tip-in or a deflection.”
Tallinder knotted things up towards the end of the middle frame. He wristed a shot past Roloson at 18:45 to send a 1-1 tie into the final 20 minutes.
The Lightning lead the Southeast Division with a three-point gap over the Washington Capitals. Wednesday’s loss, however, dropped them one spot in the conference standings down to third place behind Boston, who will wrap up Tampa Bay’s three-game road trip with a final contest Thursday night at TD Garden.
Kovalchuk, who was held without a point for the first time in 13 games in a victory over Florida on Sunday, put home his team-leading 22nd of the season midway through the third period with the eventual game-winner.
Devils forward Travis Zajac got things started when he intercepted a pass in the offensive zone before feeding the Russian winger between the circles. Kovalchuk reared back and fired off a one-timer that beat Roloson into the left corner of the net. Kovalchuk finished the night with two points.
A tight-checking first period was highlighted by some big saves by each team’s goalie. Roloson, who made six saves in the opening frame, made a nifty glove save off a snap shot by Devils rookie Nick Palmieri from between the circles at 3:03 in the first. Brodeur then turned away Nate Thompson on a shorthanded breakaway attempt with his glove at 13:53.
“Our players are really interested in the details and they care about them,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “So when you get into those one-goal games, the guys come together and do their best to come through.”
Martin St. Louis saw his nine-game point streak, the league’s longest active, come to an end.
Tampa Bay moved the NHL’s best record in one-goal games this season to 21-4-7.
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.