Lightning Escapes Jersey Victorious

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, of Russia, celebrates as teammate Nikita Kucherov, not pictured, also of Russia, scored an empty-net during the third period of Game 4 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series against the New Jersey Devils, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Newark, N.J. The Lightning won 3-1. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Strong second period again paces Bolts in 3-1 win

Newark, NJ- Cory Schneider and Taylor Hall staked the New Jersey Devils to their first playoff win in six years on Monday night. With a chance to even the series infront of their rabid fans, the Devils hit the ice in Newark on Wednesday night and landed early blows against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bad blood from Game three carried over into Game four, where seven penalties were called early, including one in the first 34 seconds. That was killed off. Minors on Alex Kilorn and Cedric Paquette were not. Before the halfway mark of the frame, New Jersey converted on a five on three power play, with Kyle Palmieri lasering a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy for a 1-0 Devils’ lead. Tampa killed the remaining time on the minor and survived a few breaks by Blake Coleman. After the waves of Devils’ offense, the Lightning found theirs.

Tampa’s top line created some transition offense, ending with a J.T. Miller shot over Cory Schneider’s stick side. A minute later, Tampa apparently took the lead when Cory Conacher wristed a shot off the left bar and in. However, Ondrej Palat was ruled offsides on a Jersey challenge and the goal was waved off. Tampa did not shrink, claiming the lead with five minutes left in the period. Nikita Kucherov tracked a rebound off Schneider following a Braydon Coburn shot and potted his third goal of the series from the doorstep to give Tampa the lead entering the first intermission.

The Lightning offense dominated the second period, outshooting New Jersey 12-5. Schneider was excellent in his second start this series, stopping every shot he faced and keeping his team alive. The Devils also outhit the Lightning nine to six and had enough strength to keep pace with Tampa. Neither team got a goal in the frame, so Tampa entered the third ahead 2-1.

The Lightning again won the shot battle in the third period, but it was much closer at 13-10. Damon Severson and Nico Hischier both had great chances on a power play near the half mark of the period, but Vasilevskiy made strong pad saves and held the Devils at bay. With time winding down and New Jersey desperate for the equalizer, John Hynes pulled Schneider for an extra attacker. It did not work. Kucherov landed his second goal of the game, fourth of the series, and ended the night with 1:08 left. Tampa escaped with a 3-1 victory.

Cory Schneider was again outstanding, recording 34 saves on 36 shots faced. He has earned back the starting job for the Devils. Taylor Hall and Will Butcher both got assists on the Palmeri goal. Butcher now has three points in the series and Hall has five.

Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded 27 saves on 28 shots and was the top star of the game. J.T. Miller was the game’s leading scorer. He potted Tampa Bay’s first goal and assisted on both of Kucherov’s goals.

The series returns to Tampa on Saturday night. The Lightning will have a chance to win the series on home ice and move on to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Puck drops at Amalie Arena at 3pm Eastern.

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