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One of the league's least productive offenses was helped out by Johan Holmqvist. If his second playoff appearance goes no better than the first, the Tampa Bay Lightning are likely to be headed home in an 0-2 hole.
Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils look to continue causing problems for Holmqvist and the Lightning as the teams continue their best-of-seven, first-round matchup on Saturday at Continental Airlines Arena.
New Jersey took a two-goal lead 12:31 into Game 1 and went on to beat Tampa Bay 5-3 on Thursday. The five goals matched the Devils' fourth-highest total from the regular season, when they averaged 2.51 per game - fourth-lowest in the NHL.
The Devils have won nine straight playoff series when they win the first game.
"It's very important - everybody's talking, the excitement, the enthusiasm," coach Lou Lamoriello said. "You have to win four games. It's only one game."
Lamoriello's team was outshot 26-24, but Holmqvist could make only 19 saves in his playoff debut and his mistake allowed the Devils to seal the win with 1:22 to play. Holmqvist stopped a slap shot from Brian Gionta but failed to freeze the puck, and Gionta eventually got it back and scored easily to put the Devils up by two goals.
"He's gonna play better, this was his first game," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said of Holmqvist. "He'll be better the next game and that's all we're looking for, just try to get a solid effort in there and we'll be OK."
Holmqvist allowed only four goals in three regular-season games against New Jersey, but has surrendered 11 goals while losing his last three starts overall.
Parise, who had a team-high 31 goals during the regular season, scored two goals on Thursday, including the game-winner in the third period.
"It was just a preview of what the Devils have with this kid," said New Jersey center Scott Gomez of the 22-year-old left wing. "He's got the flair for the big time. He just keeps getting better. He's always soaking up information. He's one of the hardest workers and he likes the spotlight. He's a special one."
New Jersey went up 2-0 midway through the first period, but Vincent Lecavalier would tie the game at three early in the third period with his second goal of the game. Parise scored just over a minute later to put the Devils up for good.
"There was no panic on the bench," Parise said. "That shows the experience we have on the bench and in the dressing room. We knew we had to respond. That's a tough team to keep off the board."
Martin Brodeur recorded 23 saves in his 153rd playoff start. The 34-year-old goaltender is 90-64 in the postseason, two playoff wins shy of Grant Fuhr for second place all-time.
Despite suffering the loss, Tortorella, whose team beat the Devils in three of four regular-season meetings, was pleased with how the Lightning looked Thursday.
"I think we match up well against them," he said. "We scored three goals on Brodeur in the first game of the series. We scored a couple on their checking line, I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought we did a lot right tonight."
The series shifts to the St. Pete Times Forum for Game 3 on Monday.
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