NEWARK, N.J. – After seeming to continuously find a way despite the circumstances, the Tampa Bay Lightning stumbled Tuesday night and dropped a 2-1 decision to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
“We’ve pulled out games where this has happened, but you’re not going to pull them all out,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “You’re just limiting your chances to win hockey games by continuing to turn the puck over or by trying to make too cute of a play.”
Managing just 17 shots on net total in the contest, Cooper countlessly tried to reinvigorate the Bolts, which seemed to work initially. Yet soon after finishing the second period by outshooting the Devils 8-1, the momentum fizzled again, adding just four more shots in the final frame.
“We have a game plan in place and it gets a little frustrating when we don’t execute our plan,” Cooper said. “If you’re going to get less than 20 shots in a hockey game, that’s not very hard to play against.”
After a quiet first period from both teams, the two clubs combined for three goals in the middle frame. The Devils struck first with back-to-back tallies, putting the Lightning in a 2-0 deficit by the midway point of the contest.
Adam Henrique stole the puck away from Bolts’ blueliner Matt Carle in the defensive zone and carried the puck down the ice, passing to Patrick Elias. Elias sent the puck right back to Henrique, who finished for the opening marker, shorthanded, at 1:36 of the second.
New Jersey’s next tally came nine minutes later when Martin St. Louis also suffered a turnover in the Devils’ zone. Jaromir Jagr quickly converted with a breakaway deep into Tampa Bay territory, wristing a shot top shelf past netminder Ben Bishop to extend the Devils’ lead to 2-0. The goal was unassisted.
“Enough was enough with being cute,” Cooper said. “We had five shots on goal and you’re not going to win against this goaltender with five shots on goal.”
The Lightning responded immediately to Cooper’s words, breaking New Jersey’s shutout less than five minutes later. Stationed in front of the net, Stamkos tried to redirect a shot from Teddy Purcell. The Devils netminder came up with the intial save, but Stamkos managed to poke the rebound past him to cut New Jersey’s lead in half with 4:37 remaining in the second period.
“We sustained pressure and got back into the game, we actually could have had the lead,” Cooper said. “‘Why couldn’t we do that for more than six minutes in a game?’ That’s the frustrating part.”
In the third period Valtteri Filppula had one of the biggest scoring chances of the game, but Brodeur came up with the stop for New Jersey. Fed a pass from St. Louis, Filppula shot a backhander at the Devils’ net, but Brodeur made a quick reaction save with his leg pad to keep New Jersey in front.
UP NEXT – With two days between their next contest, the Lightning travel to Raleigh, North Carolina Tuesday evening. The Bolts have two scheduled practices before Friday’s tilt with former Southeast Division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes. It is also the first of back-to-back games that features the St. Louis Blues at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday, in addition to the Hurricanes.