The Tampa Bay Lightning has officially changed their secondary nickname from Bolts to streak killers. That is exactly what the Lightning has done to the last two opponents that have made their way in to the St. Pete Times Forum.
On Wednesday evening the Lightning put a screeching halt the the Phoenix Coyotes eight game winning streak and last night, the New Jersey Devils winners of their last eight and 9-0-1 in their last ten games, also fell victim to the Streak Killers, 2-1.
Closing out an NHL record tying 12-game home stand that began back on Jan-21 the Bolts who opened a can of offensive you know what on the Coyotes in Wednesday’s win, simply clamped down, and stymied the Devils at their own trapping style of defense, in the 2-1 victory Friday night.
The Devils were limited to just 20 shots on goal an appeared frustrated at times, unable to move the puck through the neutral zone
Tampa’s goalie, Dwayne Roloson had this to say when asked to rate from one to ten the Bolts defensive effort, “”Probably a 13, 14. The guys played unbelievable. We stuck to our game plan and did exactly what our coach wanted us to do.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, who keeps every sports record known to mankind from the time the caveman roamed the earth unleashed this beauty following Tampa’s win against the Devils. The Lightning became the first team in NHL history to win back-to-back games against opponents with eight-game winning streaks. Impressive, considering the NHL has also been played since the days of the cave dweller.
When Lightning head coach Guy Boucher found out about this stat he became very excited, “Ooh, I’ve got to tell the players,” he said. “We always tell the players we’re in the business of doing the impossible.”
The Lightning looked like the Devils from mid 90’s in Friday’s game, clogging the neutral zone and disrupting passing lanes every chance they could. New Jersey never had more than eight shots in any period and was limited to just five in the middle stanza as the Bolts out-shot the Devils, 30-20 in the game.
The Lightning also out-hit the Devils 32-21 in the contest as both teams played disciplined hockey only turning the puck over a combined 14 times in the game. The game was a hockey purists dream as only three penalties was called in a contest that was all about defense.
The Lightning’s two goals game within .54 seconds of each other as Martin St.Louis and Simon Gagne each scored immediately following face-off wins.
The NHL’s leading scorer, Steven Stamkos beat the Devils Rod Pelley on a draw and got the puck to St. Louis St. Louis who snapped a wrist shot over Devils starting goalie, Johan Hedberg’s glove, for his 23rd of the season.
Gagne did virtually the same thing following a face-off win by the hot Teddy Purcell. Although there was no assist on the Gagne goal, Purcell tied up his man after the draw as the puck found its way drifting back to Gagne for his tenth of the season and a 2-0 lead for Tampa.
Hedberg has been lights out in his last three games allowing just one goal. “They are,” said Hedberg, “a really, really good hockey team.”
Once the worst team in the NHL this season, the Devils are 16-1-2 in their last 19 games. They have climbed back into the playoff race for the eighth seed in the eastern conference. Last night’s loss hurts as they now trail the Carolina Hurricanes 11 points for the final spot.
The Canes beat the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins Friday evening 4-1.
Ilya Kovalchuk, the poster boy for everything that was wrong in New Jersey to start the season, is now the poster boy for everything that is going right. Kovalchuk extended his point scoring streak to 12 games Friday evening, earning the primary assist on defenseman Mark Fayne’s goal.
Fayne’s fourth of the season pulled the Devils to within a goal as center Travis Zajac skated the puck untouched through the neutral zone, dropping off the puck to Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk threw a cross-ice pass to Fayne who slapped one past Roloson to make the game 2-1.
The Bolts for the most part controlled Kovalchuk. He had just two shots, as he was shadowed all night long by defensemen Randy Jones and the newly acquired, Eric Brewer. Bolts center Dominic Moore also trailed him throughout the offensive zone at times.
New Jersey could not amount a final last minute flurry on the Lightning. The Devils did not record a shot in the last two minutes of the contest as Tampa controlled the pace and flow of the game’s final minutes.
“I loved the way we played the last five minutes, with aggressiveness and poise and confidence,” Boucher said.”Nobody was panicking. Nobody was screaming at refs. We weren’t looking for anyone to help us. We were doing it.”
The first-place Lightning increased their Southeast Division lead over the second-place Washington Capitals to five points. The Caps lost 6-0 at home to the New York Rangers. The Lightning finish the record tying home stand 7-3-2 and now take to the road to play those same Rangers on Sunday afternoon.