Two weeks ago, the New Jersey Devils visited the Tampa Bay Lightning for their second game of the season. The Devils scored two goals in the first period, but the Bolts managed to claw their way back into the game and score three goals to take the game. Between that and other recent leads being matched up, one could understand some trepidation when the Devils went up 2-0 on Tampa Bay in the first period. Fortunately, tonight was a different night, a third goal was scored, and the Devils would hold on to win 3-1. A lead was defended and the fans left the Rock pleased.
The third period tonight was similar to the third period against Chicago last night. The Lightning managed to keep going forward and the Devils’ offense just faded away. The Corsi chart at HockeyStats.ca show plenty of horizontal lines for New Jersey, which indicates the time where they didn’t even generate a shooting attempt. However, the big difference was that the Devils had a three goal lead instead of a tied score or a one goal lead. Tampa Bay needed to keep firing away to get back into the game and one early goal meant they had something to be hopeful. But because of the larger lead and Cory Schneider holding steady, the Devils hanging back was not as risky.
Of course, the underlying numbers and run of play is likely going to tilt in the direction of a losing team since the losing team needs to try to not to be losing. The Devils did score two goals in the first and tacked on a third in the second period on their way to victory. Adam Henrique handled the puck, settled it, and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for an early score. Damon Severson piled in a rebound on a shot by Henrique at a tight angle to make it 2-0. After a lull, Nick Lappin fired a pass towards Devante Smith-Pelly and Braydon Coburn battling in front. DSP managed to get a stick on the puck to re-direct it by Vasilevskiy. That provided the lead and score effects that followed. I will say that the Devils played the final seven minutes or so of the second like they should with a lead; managing to keep attacking to keep Tampa Bay honest and nearly scoring a fourth in the process. That was unfortunately lost in the third period. But with Tyler Johnson only answering one of those goals on a one-timer by the slot; all’s well that ends well, I suppose.
It was refreshing that the Devils managed to give Schneider and themselves a multi-goal lead to work with as the game went on. While that’s not a guarantee for success given the last Tampa Bay game and Tuesday’s game against Arizona, a big reason why the Devils have had issues maintaining leads is that the leads were as small as they could get. One shot, bounce, loose puck, etc. is all that’s needed to erase a one goal lead. With two or three, there’s breathing room and the Devils benefited from it. That’s a good thing in general.
What’s more is what tonight’s win meant. The Devils beat a team in regulation that beat them earlier in the season. That team is a team that is expected to contend for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, so it’s against a good opponent. Most of all, the win meant the Devils took seven out of eight points in a four game home stand and secured a winning record for the month of October. I’ll have more on that in a post on Monday, but the win means we can say the Devils had a good start to 2016-17. Well done.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Raw Charge for their take on this game.
Stunning Severson: I liked how Damon Severson performed against Chicago. I really liked how he played tonight. He was once again good in his own end, particularly one-on-one with opposing players. While he and Andy Greene seen plenty of Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Jonathan Drouin, they more than held their own against them. Severson’s passing was good and one led to Henrique’s goal. Severson’s decision making off the puck on offense was rewarded when he stayed down low to keep a puck in play. He was in the right place to put home a rebound created by a Henrique shot to score. A goal, an assist, three shots on net, and 22:17 of the kind of play Devils fans would hope he could provide heading into this season. Severson was named the first star of tonight’s game and I’d say it was deserved.
Firsts: The third goal that really put the Lightning in deep involved players who earned their first points of the season. Kyle Quincey, who continues to frustrate with penalties and occasionally wonky zone exit attempts, chipped the puck from the sideboards past JT Brown to Nick Lappin. Lappin received the puck in the corner, turned, and flung the puck to the middle as Andrej Sustr came over. While Braydon Coburn was tying Smith-Pelly up, Smith-Pelly redirected the puck in. That was DSP’s first of the season, Lappin’s first NHL point, and Quincey’s first point as a Devil. A productive coincidence.
I will say that the two forwards on the play were better than Quincey tonight. Lappin received a little more ice time with 10:11 and I thought he had a shot on net, but the Devils’ scorer must feel otherwise. Still, in a game where Tampa Bay had a decided lead in shooting attempts, Lappin was one of the few who wasn’t negative in attempt differential. DSP mostly played with Pavel Zacha and Beau Bennett. His usage was limited to only around eleven minutes, but he played decently with those two. I liked how the fourth line was constructed and performed on Friday; we’ll see if John Hynes will go back to that.
Unsung: Mike Cammalleri got back on the scoresheet tonight with a secondary assist on Henrique’s goal. But Cammalleri’s performance was good beyond that. Put it this way: he played well enough to move up to skate with Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall. And it was a good decision; 9-19-13 did very well in 5-on-5 play. It bolstered Cammalleri to join Lappin and Vernon Fiddler for being positive in shot-attempt differential. The apex for that line was one of the offensive chances for the Devils in the third period: a breakaway for Cammalleri. Alas, Vasilevskiy denied him the goal that would have capped off a great night for him. After some rough performances, credit goes to where its due and Cammalleri deserves some for this one tonight.
100: Henrique’s goal was his 100th career regular season goal. Congratulations to him. While his unit struggled from attempts standpoint in 5-on-5 against Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Drouin; the shot differential was very low so it wasn’t as damaging as it could have been. I wasn’t a fan of his cross checking penalty and how Tampa Bay just dominated the Devils on the ensuing power play; but the Devils survived and escaped. Still, I liked how Henrique performed when he was able to go forward. Scoring and creating a goal definitely puts him up above others in terms of performance. With Hynes still moving forwards around, it remains to be seen who works best with him. But Henrique did what he could in spite of it.
Cory: Schneider is still good. This is not news, really.
Bummer: I was not a fan of how P.A. Parenteau played tonight. I was not a fan that Johnson was able to get by him - as he probably should as Johnson is fast and Parenteau is not - for Tampa Bay’s lone goal. He only generated one shot on goal, so he didn’t do much on offense. He took a pretty lazy tripping penalty in the second that makes me think that contributed as to why he played less than twelve minutes tonight. It was a poor one for him. Hopefully the next one will be better.
Almost as Impressive as Scoring Three: Not long after the Lightning failed to score on a power play late in the third - that really has to stop for the Devils’ sake - Tampa Bay boldly pulled their goalie with 3:11 left to play in regulation. Down two goals and boasting a lineup that features Stamkos, Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Drouin, Killorn, Anton Stralman, Hedman, etc., the bold move made sense. As it turned out, the Devils handled the 5-on-6 situation as well as one could have hoped.
No, the Devils did not score on an empty net. Zajac came close but a rolling puck sent the attempt wide for an icing; and DSP missed later. But that was the only part of the effort that was missing. The Devils held their ground well in the neutral zone as the Lightning either decided or were forced to dump the puck away. The Devils battled well on the perimeter of their own end, forcing Tampa Bay to battle instead of trying to get one past Schneider. In 3:11, the Lightning officially had two shots on net and four shooting attempts. Prior to the extra-skater situation, the Lightning were up 8-3 in shots and 12-6 in attempts. That adds to how impressive for the Devils to repel the Lightning while they had an extra attacker on the ice. The two shots themselves weren’t exactly dangerous ones for Schneider, too. While the Lightning’s offense provided plenty of work for Schneider and the defense for most of the night, the 3:11 stretch was arguably their best defensive run all night long. The ENG would have been fitting, but it guaranteed the 3-1 win all the same. Well done.
Elsewhere, an Injury: Yesterday, the Devils received the bad news that Blake Speers broke his wrist and is out for at least six weeks. Chris Ryan had an article at NJ.com about that here. Tonight, as Tweeted by Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union, Steve Santini was held out of the Albany game tonight due to an upper body injury. It appears to be a minor injury, which is good. But if you’re hoping for Santini to come in soon and replace a defenseman in New Jersey, then it’s not likely to happen.
One Last Thought: Not only did the Devils take seven out of eight points in this home stand, they can reflect on it for a bit. The Devils have four days off before going back to Sunrise, Florida to play the Panthers. The rest is well earned.
Your Take: The Devils beat the Lightning, 3-1. The lead was defended, the fans went hope pleased, and the Devils end the month at 4-2-2. What’s your take on how tonight’s game went? What did you like or dislike about the performance? Who on the Devils played the best tonight? Who played the worst in your view? What would you like the Devils to take from this game before their next game on Thursday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this win in the comments.
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