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Second period outburst surges Lightning to 2-0 series lead over Devils

Following on the heels of their victory in Game 1 of their first round series against the New Jersey Devils, the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to build off that effort. They realized after that 5-2 win, there would be some push-back from the Devils. After all, the playoffs are considered a marathon and not a sprint, with plenty of give-and-take along the way. Thanks to a quick outburst of goals in the second period, the Lightning now own control of this series.

A trio of Tampa Bay goals in the span of 2:47 in the second period left the Devils reeling, giving the Lightning the breathing room they needed. Although New Jersey made the game interesting over the final 10 minutes, it was too little, too late for them. Tampa Bay came out on top 5-3 in Game 2, giving them a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Once again, the Lightning received contributions from what has become the usual cast of playoff contributors. Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov each scored a goal, while Brayden Point tallied the first playoff goal of his career. Alex Killorn scored a pair of power play goals in the second period, while Ryan McDonagh contributed two assists and Andrei Vasilevskiy ended the night with 41 saves. Unfortunately for the Bolts, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi both left the game with injuries and did not return. There was no update on their condition after the game’s conclusion.

Despite roaring out to a 5-1 lead, the Devils chipped away towards the end of the second and made a big surge during the third period.

However, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper believed his team did a lot of good things and chalked up New Jersey’s late push to being typical playoff hockey with momentum swings going back and forth.

“When we wake up tomorrow, we’ll look back and say, ‘What parts of the game did we do well?’ And we’ll be able to look at a lot of the tape and say we did really well,” said Cooper. “And we’ll look at some of the tape and say ‘That wasn’t so good.’ People have to understand, New Jersey had 97 points. You don’t fluke your way to 97 points. They’re a playoff team. There’s gonna be battles, there’s gonna be swings in momentum, but the big thing for me is, we won the game. For a lot of that game, I thought we did a lot of really good things.”

The opening period saw both teams duel to a 1-1 draw, with the Lightning controlling puck possession despite being out-shot.

New Jersey held a 10-6 edge in shots, but the Lightning had a lot more attempts that either missed the net or were blocked. For the second straight game, the Bolts played a physical game that balanced out their speed and forechecking, spending a lot of time in the Devils’ zone. Point broke the ice when he scored at the 12:15 mark to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

Point’s beautiful snipe came off a play in which the Lightning caught the Devils in transition, with Point roofing a shot past Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid. However, just 1:23 later, Devils rookie Nico Hischier notched the first playoff goal of his NHL career. Following a faceoff win in the Tampa Bay zone, a Devils shot led to a rebound that Anton Stralman failed to clear. The rebound popped out to Hischier in the slot, where he fired it home, tying the game 1-1.

Despite being knotted up 1-1, the Lightning weren’t fazed, unleashing their second period outburst that powered them to that 5-1 lead.

Following a delay of game penalty on Ben Lovejoy, the Bolts went up 2-1 on Killorn’s first power play goal of the game. A missed one-timer by Steven Stamkos led to Kucherov taking the puck in the right circle. He sent a pass in the slot to Killorn, who redirected the puck into the net. Only 1:22 later, Johnson scored his second playoff goal of 2018 when he redirected a slap pass from McDonagh past Kinkaid for a 3-1 Bolts lead.

A mere 1:25 after Johnson’s goal, Kucherov got in on the act. He flew down the left wing, chipping a puck past New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen. As he got deep in the Devils’ zone, he threw a puck in front looking for Stamkos. Vatanen was there to intercept it, but he ended up directing the puck into his own net, extending the Lightning’s lead to 4-1.

Tampa Bay picked up another power play when Devils forward Kyle Palmieri attempted to start up a scrum after the whistle, resulting in him taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

After the Lightning worked the puck around, Kucherov fired a shot that Kinkaid stopped. However, Killorn knocked the rebound home for his second power play goal, making it a 5-1 game. That was the end of the Kinkaid’s afternoon, as he was pulled in favor of Cory Schneider after allowing five goals on 15 shots.

“We did a lot of good things to get that score to 5-1,” said Cooper. “You can say we got some breaks, but I think we earned them.”

With the assist on Killorn’s second goal of the afternoon, Kucherov set a new franchise playoff record:

Unfortunately for the Lightning, the injury bug struck late in the second period.

Ryan Callahan left the game in the final minute of the second period with an upper body injury and did not return after taking a hit from Vatanen. Vatanen then made up for his earlier gaffe by scoring to make it 5-2 Lightning going into the final period. At the start of the final 20 minutes, Girardi never set foot on the bench or the ice and didn’t see any action the rest of the way.

Despite playing with a shorthanded bench for the remainder of the contest, the Bolts nearly scored a pair of goals. However, Schneider stopped both Point and Cedric Paquette on quality chances. His save on Paquette was particularly impressive, as the Lightning’s fourth line center had a wide open look on a rebound after crashing the net.

New Jersey seemed to feed off the saves they received from Schneider, spending a ton of time in the Lightning’s zone over the final 10 minutes of the game.

Blake Coleman cut the Bolts’ lead to 5-3 with 8:03 remaining, but that was as close as they’d get. Vasilevskiy made several quality saves over that time, helping out his team when they got hemmed into their own zone for long stretches. While there was an earlier outburst of Lightning goals, there was also an outburst of chippy play, as several shoving matches ensued over the final period-and-a-half. Even the final 10 seconds saw a melee break out after Ondrej Palat drilled Taylor Hall when he was driving the net. While the Lightning have been criticized at times for not being physical enough, they threw their weight around multiple times today, and were not afraid to mix it up with New Jersey.

Tampa Bay returns to action Monday night when they travel to Newark to play the Devils in Game 3. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.

Game Notes

-The Lightning set a franchise record for most goals in one period of a playoff game.

-The final shot total was 44-25 in favor of the Devils.

-In three regular season meetings between the Lightning and Devils, Tampa Bay scored a total of eight goals. They already have 10 through two games.

Our Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Alex Killorn – Two power play goals

2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov – One goal and two assists

3rd Star: Brayden Point – First career playoff goal

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