The Tampa Bay Lightning will have to wait at least one more day to attempt to overcome its recent road struggles.
Nate Thompson and Matt Carle each had goals, Martin St. Louis registered two assists and Anders Lindback made 23 saves, but as the Lightning fell to the New Jersey Devils 4-2 at the Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday night.
The loss proved to be Tampa Bay’s third straight, and just the first of the season that came by more than a one-goal margin. New Jersey, meanwhile, won for the third consecutive time and now has gained at least a point in the standings in nine of its first 10 games to start the season.
“We went up against a tight defensive hockey club that doesn’t give a lot,” Thompson said. “But we threw a lot of pucks in the areas where no one was there and we needed to handle the puck a bit better. It’s pretty simple.”
With two games remaining on its four-game road trip, the Lightning will next have a shot at reversing the losing trend on Saturday afternoon in Boston against the Bruins.
New Jersey will play three of the next four at home, where the Devils are 4-0-1 this season.
Adam Henrique scored for New Jersey, and Ilya Kovalchuk also had a goal for the Devils that came shorthanded.
The Devils’ other two goals came from Andy Greene and Patrik Elias, both of whom scored on pair of 5-on-3 power plays late in the third period.
Like in each of the previous two contests on the swing way from home, the Lightning kept things close and saw a number of good scoring chances, but couldn’t get the bounces to go their way.
Steven Stamkos, playing on his birthday, had an opportunity for an early equalizer at an empty net, but his wrist shot ricocheted off the far post to keep a tally off the board.
Later on in the game, Vincent Lecavalier was denied from in close by Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who turned aside 17 of 19 shots.
After a scoreless first, Henrique opened the scoring when he jammed a puck through Lindback’s pads to put the Devils up 1-0 early on in the second period.
Thompson tied it 1-1 at 13:19 after firing a wrist shot home from the slot off a feed from St. Louis, who got things started with a nice defensive play.
“We just needed to battle more,” St. Louis said. “The last couple of games we spent too much time in our end zone and when we got on offense, we didn’t do a very good job of sustaining it. So, we needed to go to the dirty areas.”
Kovalchuk re-established New Jersey’s one-goal lead, wristing a shot by Lindback to finish off a 2-on-1 odd-man rush shorthanded at 17:34 of the middle frame.
The game remained close, however, until Tampa Bay ran into penalty trouble with about six minutes remaining in regulation.
First, St. Louis went off for tripping, although video replay clearly showed St. Louis’ stick was nowhere near the skates to up-end the Devils players. Just 18 seconds later, Adam Hall was sent to the penalty box for a high-sticking call to give the Devils a 5-on-3 power play opportunity.
Hall initially went to clear the puck, but missed and inadvertently struck Travis Zajac in the face with the blade of his stick. The officials’ call then drew protest from Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, who was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction.
Nonetheless, New Jersey took full advantage, as Greene and Elias scored a pair of goals in a span of 14 seconds, both with the two-man advantage, to put the Devils up 4-1 with under five minutes to play.
Carle then cut the deficit to two, taking a quick back-door pass from St. Louis and wristing one by Brodeur to make it 4-2.
With Lindback off in favor of the extra skater in the game’s final minute, New Jersey had two more chances to increase the lead, but both missed just wide of the net before time expired.