The Tampa Bay Lightning took no time at all to take the lead. Off a draw one minute into the game, Mikhail Sergachev took a puck from Steven Stamkos and deflected a shot off Ross Colton’s knee, and past Akira Schmid. 1-0, Lightning. This was right after an icing call where Jesper Bratt contended that he would have been first to the puck. Nonetheless, the New Jersey Devils had an early hole to climb out of.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made his first big save when Nico Hischier protected the puck low, circling around Victor Hedman, as Hischier skated right in Vasilevskiy’s face as he cut across the crease for the shot. Ryan Graves later had a nice shot when a pass slipped through traffic and right to him on the rush. Vasilevskiy made another save here, and then again later when Timo Meier sprung Jack Hughes ahead for a rush chance.
John Marino helped avert a goal against past the halfway point of the period when a shot trickled through Schmid — but Marino shoveled it out of the crease. The Lightning got on it again and shot as Schmid dove across the crease, but the Devils cleared it out of the zone that time.
Michael McLeod, from the corner, tried to set up Yegor Sharangovich as Sharangovich was nearing the net. However, Anthony Cirelli tied up Sharangovich’s stick, and the puck went through to Jonas Siegenthaler at the faceoff dot. His low shot was saved by Vasilevskiy, who later almost fell victim to Jack Hughes stealing one of his passes behind the net — and Vasilevskiy only barely avoided having the puck banked into the net off him.
Siegenthaler had a point shot deflected down to Nico Hischier, who chipped the puck just high over the crossbar. Hischier later had another chance in front of the net that was turned aside by Vasilevskiy. Erik Haula sent one more at the net to finish the period, but it deflected wide of goal as Dawson Mercer could not bat it into the net. 1-0, Tampa, going to the first intermission.
Timo Meier was called for slashing a few minutes into the period as he knocked Nick Perbix’s stick out of his hands. The Lightning went to the power play. Stamkos had a one-timer saved by Schmid, and he later rang a shot off the post. With the second unit out, Yegor Sharangovich had Erik Haula on the far-side, with two Lightning between them. Sharangovich took the shot in open space, forcing Vasilevskiy to make a tough save. At the end of the power play, Ross Colton unloaded a one-timer the was saved by Schmid as Bahl just missed on the block.
Right after play resumed, Ondrej Palat was sent off for tripping Erik Cernak by the boards. The Devils cleared off Nico Hischier’s faceoff win. The Lightning got too cute with their passing in the offensive zone, making one-too-many as the puck got to Nico Hischier. Hischier took it to the corner and cleared it toward the middle of the ice, entirely wasting the Tampa first unit’s time. The second unit did not fare well, as they could not gain the zone against the Devils’ penalty kill. Palat returned to play with a bit over 12 minutes to play.
Ryan Graves almost caused a two-on-one the other way when two of his shots were blocked by Tanner Jeannot. The Lightning took the second block the other way past Graves, but he got back in time as Dougie Hamilton rode Jeannot out of the play to avert a chance against.
The Devils finally got their look. With Dawson Mercer gaining the zone and sending it off to Nico Hischier on his right, Vasilevskiy could not get across when Hischier passed through traffic to Tatar on the far side. Tatar roofed his shot with Vasilevskiy sprawling to his right! 1-1, with over half the period to play.
Tuna up top to tie. pic.twitter.com/4VP6SIaZ1f— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 17, 2023
Akira Schmid made the save of the game nearly 12 minutes into the period — it was such a good save that the MSG goal graphic came on. Nick Paul put a rebound from a Hedman shot on goal, and Schmid dove out with the glove to make the save! Talk about a heart-stopping save:
YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING pic.twitter.com/fZEahuLQmD— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 17, 2023
Tomas Tatar almost had another goal when Vasilevskiy was in a scramble — in a very similar play to his first goal — but somehow the shot went high over the net. Then, Nico Hischier was cross-checked from behind to no call in the corner, but he got right up and kept the puck moving behind the net. Tatar sent it out to the front of the net, with Dougie taking a one-timer. Both teams crashed as Vasilevskiy couldn’t handle a shot, and the net was knocked off its moorings with the puck still in the Devils’ possession.
Finally, the referees called a penalty on the Lightning. Steven Stamkos slashed someone in the neutral zone. Then, as Vasilevskiy had a puck roll out of his glove, Jesper Boqvist got cross checked by Erik Cernak. They called both, to my shock. The Devils got a five-on-three for two minutes.
Dougie Hamilton took a one-timer 13 seconds in that blew Vasilevskiy’s mask off, with the puck going out of play. Nico won the second draw, and Jesper Bratt set up Hughes for a one-timer, which also went off Sergachev’s stick and out of play. The Lightning cleared after the next draw when Hughes had his shot blocked. After a Hamilton one-timer was saved, the Lightning cleared again. In the final 30 seconds of the five-on-three, Hughes hit the post.
With only Ryan Graves changing on for Meier, the Lightning took it the other way. Not so shockingly, Stamkos scored when he was all alone with the puck, with Graves in no-man’s land at the side of the net. 2-1, Tampa.
Y'all already know what time it is... ⏰ pic.twitter.com/AqDcCjCsIn— NHL (@NHL) March 17, 2023
Pat Maroon took a slashing call when Damon Severson goaded him into taking a penalty behind the play. The Devils’ power play went to work. Hughes’ first shot here sat in front the crease, but Hischier couldn’t get a clean shot on the rebound. The Lightning played it back to Hughes, who stepped into the slot and shot wide. Jesper Bratt had a rush shot that was saved by Vasilevskiy when the puck left the zone after a draw, and the Devils missed on a centering opportunity with Meier in front.
Vasilevskiy made two big redirection saves to keep the lead. The first was off the stick of Jesper Boqvist, who had a chance when Jack Hughes set him up. The second, a few minutes later, came when Dawson Mercer centered the puck with Hischier and Tatar around the net. Tatar got his stick on it and tried to jam it in, but Vasilevskiy shut the door.
Then, the Swiss connection showed up. Timo Meier took the zone after a beautiful stretch pass from Damon Severson, and Meier weakly backhanded it to the middle — but it got through to Nico Hischier. His shot was kicked out by Vasilevskiy, and Nico kept it moving to Meier, who pulled off the sharp angle shot to tie the game! 2-2.
After Jack Hughes shot on a two-on-one with Bratt on the other side, Jonas Siegenthaler took a useless interference penalty despite far outnumbering the Lightning with the puck entering the zone. With the man advantage, the Lightning gained the zone quickly after the puck was sent out. All four penalty killers worked together to keep the puck moving around the net to get it out of the zone, and the first minute went by without a shot. Then, Steven Stamkos beat Akira Schmid with a one-timer. 3-2, Tampa, with less than five minutes to play.
With four minutes to play, Kevin Bahl drew a tripping minor. The Devils went to the power play with 3:45 to play. Nick Paul sat in the box. Tampa won the draw and cleared the puck. With the puck in the zone, Timo Meier uncorked a slap shot that was saved with ease. After a lot of slow puck movement, Dougie Hamilton shot for a tip by Jesper Bratt in the high slot, but it did not redirect quite enough to beat Vasilevskiy. With 2:24 to play, Lindy Ruff called timeout.
With 40 seconds left on the power play, Dawson Mercer joined the top power play unit as an extra attacker. Akira Schmid sat on the bench. Hischier won the draw, and the Devils moved it around up high. Timo Meier one-timed it past Vasilevskiy! 3-3 tie game with two minutes to play!
TIMO TIER, WE MEAN MEIER TIED ‘ER. pic.twitter.com/drS1RvCjel— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 17, 2023
Play grew to a wild pace, with both teams frantically trying to create scoring chances as the clock ticked down. The Devils, though, dominated most of the possession, with their neutral zone structure working to prevent counterattacks. The Devils just missed on some passes as time ran out, sending the game to overtime.
Nico Hischier won the draw, and Dougie Hamilton fought off Cirelli for the puck, keeping it moving to Hischier. After one shot by Dougie, the Lightning took it the other way. Nico cut back to block the two-on-one pass, and Schmid made a big save on Brandon Hagel. Damon Severson took the puck around after the faceoff and sprung Bratt, who circled the zone and cycled with Timo Meier. Meier passed back, and Bratt changed for Hughes. Meier went off for Hischier.
Nico Hischier walked Brayden Point and forced Vasilevskiy to make a big save. Point was fought off by Severson and Hughes on the other end. After the Devils worked the puck out of the zone, following a sharp shot by Kucherov, they changed lines again. Boqvist tried to set up a rush chance for Dawson Mercer, but Cernak broke it up. Boqvist later had a shot blocked by Cernak. Bratt and Meier came on with Hamilton.
Hamilton played it from center ice, and Bratt made Hagel fall backwards as Timo settled for a shot that was turned away by Vasilevskiy. The Devils did a good job of averting the counterattack. Yegor Sharangovich skated the puck up the ice in the final 45 seconds, sending Hughes into the zone. They could not get a shot, and Schmid made another big save on Hedman to keep the game tied in the final seconds. Hedman took one last shot, and the game went to a shootout.
Timo Meier went first in the shootout. Meier stopped, sharply, and shot for the five hole. He almost got it, but was denied.
Ross Colton went for Tampa. He scored as he went quickly in on Schmid, ringing the puck around the iron. 1-0, Tampa, in the shootout.
Sharangovich went up, and sniped in a slow glide! 1-1.
Stamkos followed. He shot wide as Schmid covered the blocker side well.
Boqvist went third for the Devils, and was denied by the blocker.
Alex Killorn went for the win, and he rang it around the iron and in. Tampa wins the skills competition.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Raw Charge.
Better, But Not Perfect
The Devils were a very frustrating team to watch for much of the first 40 minutes tonight. They got almost no scoring chances until late in the second period, at which point it felt like the floodgates began to open. What was it? A late effort? Coaching adjustments in the match between Lindy Ruff and Jon Cooper? I do not know, but I appreciated how hard the Devils fought tonight.
Even players that I feel like I have been picking on a lot lately (namely: Graves, Marino, Bratt) played the game hard and well in the third period. If the whole team was not putting forth their best effort, then maybe Timo Meier would not have broken Andrei Vasilevskiy twice. As it happened, the Devils came close to tying the game or taking the lead multitudes of times. And if the game continued on at five-on-five, as it would have in a playoff series, I think the Devils had such strong momentum in the third that they would have won a playoff game with the energy they brought late in the tilt.
I think a lot of players made great adjustments to Tampa’s game tonight. Best of all was seeing Nico Hischier creating chances left and right. Timo Meier had, by far, his best game as a Devil yet. It’s particularly fun to watch Meier move the puck and knock a defender to the ice as they try to hit him or take the puck away, and even more fun to watch Timo score goals. Severson and Hamilton also seemed to really carry the defense, as their pinches and puck movement from the back end looked flawless in the third period — and they played well in overtime, too.
Akira Schmid played a pretty good game. Again, not perfect, but he made some stone-cold saves on the doorstep to keep the Devils in it, and let in what I would say the average goaltender would let up to Tampa when they put up the kind of shots that they did tonight. As I said in Tuesday’s recap, they can beat you with 20 good shots. They already had the game won by their 19th shot on Tuesday (when Kucherov scored Tampa’s fourth at the end of the second period), and their three goals on 23 shots tonight had the game going to a shootout.
So where do we go from here? I hope Vanecek get the start against Florida on Saturday. Akira Schmid deserves the starter’s net against the playoff team, to see if the Devils can win the game before the 65th minute. Even better would be if the Devils held Tampa down enough to win their next matchup in regulation. From how they played Tampa as the game wore on tonight, I think they have it in them. It was not like Tuesday, when Tampa shut their offense down in the third as they protected the lead. In contrast, Tampa only stayed in the driver’s seat tonight because of a ticky-tack, but bad penalty to take by Jonas Siegenthaler. If not for that penalty, the Devils only let Tampa get two even strength shots that period. Even with Tampa trying to counterattack, Ruff’s Devils had them figured out in the late stages.
I just want to see more of that. It’s no use worrying about the shootout loss. Regulation is where things really count right now, leading up to the playoffs — and the Devils finally figured out how to control play at five-on-five against Tampa tonight.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Who did you think played the best? Did the Lightning deserve two points? Did anyone? How are you feeling about the team’s readiness for the playoffs right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
And whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. Goodnight.