Lightning Survive Jersey Barn Burner

McIlhinney, Johnson, Palat play Hero for the Bolts

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Tyler Johnson, left, celebrates with Ondrej Palat, right, as New Jersey Devils’ Jesper Bratt (63) and goaltender Cory Schneider react after Johnson scored during overtime in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Newark, N.J. The Lightning won 7-6. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Newark, NJ- Tuesday night’s loss at Madison Square Garden piled adversity on an already challenging opening month for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Two important players, victor Hedman and Patrick Maroon, dropped due to injury, and a few AHL players took their spots. The Bolts also needed a win to turn around the early-season struggles on the second half of a back-to-back against a desperate New Jersey Devils team. The result was a frantic, albeit fun and high scoring hockey game at the Prudential Center.

The Devils controlled the pace for the entire night, outshooting their guests 42-23. They capitalized on a Kevin Shattenkirk delay of game penalty that came 33 seconds into the night with the first of Kyle Palmieri’s hat trick at 1:10 of the first.

Tampa would ultimately take five penalties in the game, a theme that every member of the squad admitted that needed fixing. “I put my teammates in a bad position where they have to go out and kill a penalty early on and we’re playing catchup”, said Shattenkirk. “It’s a matter of us realizing it’s a hockey game, we’re gonna take penalties. That’s part of it. But there’s ones we can live with and there’s one we can’t.”

The Bolts offense got into gear in the late first. First, Ondrej Palat roofed some strong Shattenkirk and Brayden Point passing to tie the game. A few minutes later, Nico Hischier took the only Devils minor of the night; a holding penalty. On the ensuing power play, Alex Killorn blasted home a shot to give his team the 2-1 lead at the break.

The second period upped the chaotic nature of the game. There were four goals scored. two tied the game and the others gave a team the lead. Jesper Bratt had the first and last goals of the frame. In between, Brayden Point cleaned up a loose puck in the crease for Tampa and Palmieri tipped in a Will Butcher pass. New Jersey led 4-3 at the second intermission.

Sami Vatanen opened the third period’s scoring early with a beautiful drive and deke around Tampa goalie Curtis McIlhinney. The Lightning did not stay down for long. Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph scored to tie the game with half of the period to play. Then, with only 3:57 to play, Ondrej Palat scored his second of the night. With McIlhinney playing his best game of the season in net, including three straight saves without his stick, New Jersey appeared finished. Alas, Palmieri cleaned up a loose puck in McIlhinney’s face and scored his hat trick goal to tie the game with 7.4 seconds left in the game.

For Tampa’s fourth time this season and New Jersey’s third, overtime was needed. This one didn’t last long. 1:16 into the frame, Palat fed Johnson for a clean and successful look at the game winner. Tampa escaped Newark with a 7-6 victory.

New Jersey drops to 2-5-3 to close October. Palmieri doubled his season goal scoring from three to six with his hat trick, now leading his team in goal scoring. Will Butcher collected two assists in his first game back in almost two weeks. Wayne Simmonds picked up three assists. Taylor Hall still leads the Devils in scoring with nine points for the year after collecting two more assists.

“I really liked the battle and fight our team had,” commented New Jersey Head Coach John Hynes. If you look at the game, we certainly deserve better. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a way to win the game.”

Cory Schneider had one of his weakest games of the season with 7 goals allowed on 23 shots faced. His season save percentage now drops to .846

New Jersey gets a day off for Halloween, then hosts the archrival Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. Puck drop at 7 pm ET at the Prudential Center.

Alexander Volkov, Luke Schenn, and Jan Rutta all made season debuts for an injury riddled squad and all held their own. Rutta had his first point of the season on Cirelli’s tip in goal.

Six different Tampa players pitched in multiple points on the night.

Back-up goaltender Curtis McIlhinney posted his best performance of the season, stopping a year-high 42 shots and keeping his outshot team afloat for much of the night.

“Going into the game, you never say you wanna win that way”, commented Tyler Johnson. “We took too many penalties. We can do a better job infront of our net, boxing out, helping Mac a bit. Mac played unbelievable for us, even if the score doesn’t indicate it.”

Tampa improves to 6-4-2. They get a day off for Halloween, then travel to Uniondale to finish the New York trip against the Islanders. Puck drops at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 7 pm ET.

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Chris is a proud Boston University Terrier ('16). While at BU, he studied political science, hosted a radio show, and covered the school's basketball team. Since graduation, he's attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, covered College Hockey's biggest events, and joined the Sports Talk Florida crew to cover notable northeastern sports happenings. You can find his fedora on press row at various hockey rinks or wandering PGA Courses