New Jersey goaltender Keith Kinkaid stopped 26 shots and made three more critical saves in a shootout to earn the first NHL win of his career, three nights after Andrei Vasilevskiy did the same for the Lightning in Philadelphia.
Patrik Elias, New Jersey’s third and final skater, was the only player to score in the shootout and the Devils defeated Tampa Bay 3-2 at the Prudential Center to end New Jersey’s five-game losing skid.
“If you’re asking me right now if when there was a minute left in the game would we have taken a point and run? I would have said, ‘Yeah, let’s get the point and run, and we ended up getting it,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Let’s be honest, the game probably ended up right exactly what it should have been.”
Trailing for most of the game, the Lightning (20-10-4, 44 points), tied it up with 41 seconds to go, Nikita Kucherov producing the dramatic score with the Bolts’ net empty. After a scramble in front of goal, Kucherov got free with the puck in the slot and backhanded a shot past Kinkaid to knot the score 2-2.
The Lightning were 0-10-0 when trailing after two periods before Friday. The Bolts fell behind 2-1 entering the third but managed to get a point.
“You hate to enter the third period behind, but it was nice that we won the period and snuck a point out of it, so it’s a good step,” Cooper said.
“We seem to be falling short (in shootouts) quite a bit of late,” Cooper said.
Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 following one period of play, but Stamkos cut the deficit in half with his team-leading 19th goal of the season at 14:55 of the second period. A hard-working shift by the Bolts’ top line resulted in a loose puck in front of goal with Stamkos lurking. The Lightning captain pounced on the opportunity, snapping a shot past Kinkaid for Tampa Bay’s first goal.
Callahan and Drouin assisted, Drouin’s second in as many games and Callahan’s third in the last two.
For the sixth time in its last seven games, Tampa Bay gave up the game’s opening goal, and fell to 2-4-1 over that stretch with Friday’s shootout loss.
Adam Henrique scored on the power play after Jason Garrison’s clear off the end board ricocheted right in front of goal. Henrique took advantage, shooting past Lighting goalie Evgeni Nabokov to put the Devils (12-6-6, 30 points) up 1-0 at 3:01.
Patrik Elias used a well-timed spin-o-rama to free himself for a backhanded shot from the right circle that tipped off the stick of Bolts defenseman Matt Carle and knuckled over Nabokov into goal to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead at 15:17 of the first period.
“First period we were a little flat, but just kind of looking at both the goals that went in for them, one we slap off the end boards, it goes right to their guy and I couldn’t tell you how the second one went in,” Cooper said.
Nabokov stopped 16 shots and made several impressive saves in the second and third periods but lost for the second time this season to New Jersey despite playing well in both games.
“You feel for him, but I think it’s just been our trend here,” Cooper said. Goals, aside from the Buffalo game, have dried up a little bit. You’ve got to start winning the games 2-1. If you can’t win those games, you can’t win many. It’s getting down to that time of year when games are 2-1, 3-2. You’ve got to win them.”
The Bolts went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a four-minute period with the man advantage late in the game when Michael Ryder was whistled for a high-sticking double minor.
“I think when we get in positions to shoot, we’re not shooting and when we shouldn’t shoot, we are shooting,” Cooper said. “You’ve just got to work through those because we’ve got a pretty talented group and eventually we’ll work through it. But, it’s tough because the PP could balance here a little bit and it’s not.”
The Lightning outshot New Jersey 28-18.
“We’re having to grind out goals,” Cooper said. “I think we had more shots on net than they had attempted for the entire game. You hope to be able to pull those games out and for whatever we’re not.”
The Devils have now won 12 of their last 15 games against Tampa Bay at the Prudential Center dating back to the 2007-08 season
The Lightning cap their five-game road trip against the New York Islanders on Saturday, the second game of a back-to-back set. Tampa Bay returns to Amalie Arena for one final game before the Christmas break, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated the Bolts 4-2 on Monday.