April 7, 2016
Tampa Bay Lightning 4 (46-30-5, 97 pts)
New Jersey Devils 2 (37-36-8, 82 pts)
Lightning Defeat Devils, Clinch 2nd Place in the Atlantic Division
New Jersey Devils fall to the playoff bound Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 Thursday night, April 7, at the Prudential Center.
Both the Devils and Lightning were even in shots on goal with 22 each. Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop (35-21-4) stopped 20 of 22 shots (91%), while Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (9-9-1) stopped 18 of 22 shots (82%). Lightning right winger Erik Condra scored the opening goal of the game (6), assisted by defenseman Andrej Sustr (17) and center Brian Boyle (7) at 5:45 into the first period. The Devils would tie the game 7:16 into the second period on a Sergey Kalinin goal (7), assisted by defenseman John Moore (14) and right winger Stephen Gionta (9). The Lightning would break the tie at 14:45 into the second period on Cedric Pacquette’s goal (6), which was assisted by center Valtteri Filppula and defenseman Matthew Carle (5). After entering the third period, recent Lightning call-up left winger Jonathan Drouin (3) gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead 3:50 into the period, which was assisted by center Vladislav Namestnikov. With the game winding down, Kalinin would score his second goal of the game (8) 9:26 into the period, with assists by right winger Bobby Farnham (2) and Gionta (10). In the final minute of play, the Devils would pull Kinkaid out of the net to give them a man advantage to attempt to tie the game. After a few missed passes and trouble getting out of their own zone, Filppula (8) would score the empty net goal to seal the win, assisted by right winger Nikita Kucherov (36) and Carle (6).
“I can’t feel good tonight, when we lose,” said Kalinin after his two goal performance. “It’s good every time you score, but not when your team loses.”
Tampa Bay is notorious for their speed, but for the most part, the Devils were able to keep up with them.
“I think we’ve got some great team speed,” says Coach John Hynes. “Would we like to add some speed and some talent and offensive players that can put the puck in the net? For sure. But if you look at our team in general this year, we’ve hung with most of the faster teams in the league pretty well.”
Penalty killing was a huge upside for the Devils, going a perfect 5 for 5 on the kill. The Devils had 4 power play opportunities, unable to convert on any of those chances. Lack of taking advantage on scoring opportunities has been a problem for the Devils.
“We’re still battling out there,” says Kinkaid. “We just gotta (sic) get better opportunities and, you know, just be strong. We’ve got to keep up the pace here and [bring it] into Saturday.”
Devils center Joseph Blandisi had trouble finding his way out of the penalty box, earning three penalties.
“He’s one of those younger guys that’s trying to find his way through,” says Coach Hynes. “When you’re not putting the puck in the net and you’re an offensive player, how are you going to help the team? But the one thing we did talk to him about is that he needs to be more competitive and play with an edge.”
Kalinin, center Jacob Josefson, and defenseman David Schlemko led the team in shots on goal with three.
Defenseman Adam Larsson led the team in total on-ice time with 24:05, followed by defenseman with 23:02, and center Adam Henrique with 20:43.
The Devils led in hits 19-11, with center Kyle Palmieri leading with four. Drouin led the Lightning in shots with four.
Although the Devils missed out on the playoffs this year, there are a lot of positives from this season and going into next season.
“I think coming into the year, you weren’t sure, obviously with new coaches and players, you’re not sure what’s going to go on,” says Coach Hynes of this season’s expectations. “We did some things differently. How we wanted to practice, how we wanted to have meetings, how we wanted to play. I think the guys have done a good job at that.”
With the win tonight, the Lightning have clinched second place in the Atlantic Division heading into the playoffs. Now they just have to wait and see whotheir opponent is going to be, either the Detroit Red Wings (41-29-11, 93 pts) or the Boston Bruins (42-30-9, 93 pts).