Lightning Caught From Behind by Devils

New Jersey comes from a goal down in the third to defeat Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning suffered just their second loss of the young season in Newark on Saturday night as the New Jersey Devils were able to take the 5-4, but they’ve demonstrated throughout that his booming second period, the Bolts will likely have another shot at the Penguins this postseason in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

In the end, it was Kyle Palmieri who would score the only goal for either team in the eventual shootout, giving the Devils the 5-4 shootout victory over the Lightning on Tuesday night.

A shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov, not pictured, of Russia, enters the net of New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)

In his first action of the season, Lightning goalie Peter Budaj saved 30 out of the 34 shots the Lightning faced. The first goal he allowed in the first period was a bit soft, a very playable puck that found its way through the goalie’s 5-hole, but after that the Lightning netminder straightened up, keeping the Bolts in the game throughout.

The first period started off with a Devils goal just 2:45 into the game. Drew Stafford netted his second goal of the season, care of a rusty non-save by Peter Budaj playing his first game of the 2017-18 season.

Vladislav Namestnikov evened the game just under five game-minutes later with his third goal of the season, assisted by both Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. They took their first leadof the game later in the first period on a power play goal from Ondrej Palat. The power play goes both ways, of course, and Kyle Palmieri evened the score because of this. A Jersey goal from Brian Gibbons gave them the first period advantage at 3-2.

With 6:58 to go in the second period, Nikita Kucherov struck as he has at least once per game so far this season. With assists from Stamkos and Mikhail Sergachev, Kucherov put in his eighth goal of the young season to tie it up. Stamkos would score later in the period to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead through two periods.

Kucherov has scored in every Lightning game this season, continuing what looks to be a true breakout year for the attacker. He already has eight goals on the young schedule,

It was Peter Budaj’s first start of the season, relegated to serving when Andrei Vasilevskiy is too worn out to go in a given night. The reviews were mixed. The first goal was what happens when a netminder has become used to sitting on the bench, a rusty leak that put the Devils ahead. Budaj got better in the second period, freezing the Devils’ score while the Lightning reclaimed the lead. That second period involved a couple sprawling saves, a sign the Lightning’s goaltending might be in good hands even when Vasilevskiy is out.

New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)

In a close game against a team in good form, holding a lead is critical. The Lightning’s early season has been defined by tests against big teams and in crucial situations, and Tuesday night was no different. On the road, up a goal, on the second night in a row, the Lightning were in a position where tough defense and puck possession would win them the game.

It’s situations just like that where good teams often get extra help from their goaltending. With backup Peter Budaj in net, the Lightning’s depth as well as mettle was put to the test on Tuesday night. Budaj is a perfectly fine backup netminder, but the second game in two nights on the road can test just about any goalie.

A second goal for the Devils’ Drew Stafford tied up the game with just over four minutes left to play in the third period. The Lightning had just finished off a two minute power play with a chance on goal, but Tampa Bay was not able to score the game-tying goal.

Adam Henrique went to the box for New Jersey, but the Devils were unable to score the goal that would give them an advantage over the Lightning.

Stafford’s second goal came with just 4:06 remaining in the game, tying the contest and sending it to overtime. It was New Jersey who would prove up to the task at home on Tuesday night, holding on through a back-and-forth scoreless overtime. Cory Schneider had 33 saves for New Jersey on the night to earn the tough victory.

From here, Tampa Bay heads to Nationwide Arena in Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Thursday night. The Blue Jackets are no easy task, coming in at 5-1-0. They defeated Winnipeg on Tuesday night by a score of 5-2. It will be yet another game against a feisty team that expects to make the playoffs for the Lightning on the young season, a schedule which has been brutal early on. All that, of course, culminating in Saturday night’s return to Amalie Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.