Too Little, Too Late: New Jersey Devils Can't Make Up Deficit to Tampa Bay Lightning, Lose 4-2

Tonight, the New Jersey Devils-Tampa Bay Lightning game was finally resolved at the Rock.   The lights worked fine and the game did start with 9:12 left in the second period with a faceoff just outside the blueline.  Just as where the game left off on Friday. There were a few changes: Yann Danis came in relief of Martin Brodeur, and Tampa Bay dressed Andrej Meszaros and David Hale for Mattias Ohlund (ill) and Matt Smaby (injury).   A few thousand came out to the Rock to see the team play and they were very vocal all night long. 

What they got to see was a Devils team playing with the right amount of energy and very aggressive hockey for the remaining 29:12.  Unfortunately, they couldn't make up the difference against the Lightning.  The Devils couldn't  get anything past Mike Smith (who did well among the deluge of rubber he saw) in the second period and spent at least a third of the second period on the penalty kill.  While the Devils struck first thanks to Travis Zajac in the slot, Steven Stamkos was found all alone in the slot  a few minutes later. Of course, he scored - the shot was a one timer from a nice feed from Martin St. Louis.  Stamkos burned up ice as St. Louis beat Andy Greene to a cleared puck, got the pass off perfectly, and the then-hot crowd became a lot more quiet. Danis had no chance, really. Stamkos is too good of a player to be left open and ultimately that goal pretty much sealed it.

Sure, Zach Parise got a nice goal right in front near the end, but it was ultimately a second consolation goal.  The defensive mistakes that cost the team dearly on Friday were too much to overcome.  After 62+ minutes in Montreal, I can't fault the team's hustle or aggressive nature. At points, I felt they were too aggressive, leading to some sloppy passes and questionable decisions to shoot.  Maybe they were  Nevertheless, the Lightning had the advantage of the lead and once they got the insurance goal from Stamkos, they played smart, calmer hockey and only had to survive. They did just that, full credit to them.  They had better quality shots, more big scoring chances with their 14 instead of New Jersey's 35.  Once again, quality shots beats quantity in shots and that was proven tonight.

I got to say, the few thousand fans that showed up really brought their "A" game in terms of atmosphere.  The "Let's Go Devils" chants were massive, especially after Zajac's goal.  The ushers told the fans in the upper sections after the second period that they could come down to the lower bowl (nice gesture) and they brought the noise down below.  I loved it.  They gave out great ovations for Danis, when the PK got a clearance, when the announcer thanked the fans for coming out as well as their patience on Friday (smart by the Devils), and, of course, the goals.   They also booed the refs harder than they did at the delay on Friday; thanks to what they perceived were some iffy penalties called in the second period: a goaltender interference call on Brian Rolston and a somewhat questionable Jay Pandolfo delay of game minor (I thought he was past the blueline, had it go into the benches, would it not just be a faceoff? Whatever.). 

In any case, the fans were great, Devils management were smart with how they handled tonight, and the team gave an energetic effort despite an intense game last night.  The ZZ Pops impressed the most:  Jamie Langenbrunner ended the night with 2 assists and 9 shots; Parise had a goal with 5 shots; and Zajac had a goal and an assist with 4 shots.  Where the Devils were flying, these three stuck out the most.  But the Devils couldn't make up for where they faltered on Friday, and the fans were mostly resigned to that reality.  Check out Raw Charge later on for a Lightning perspective on their win.  Here's the link to NHL.com's recap of the game, with a link to all the stats to the whole game. For what happened on Friday's part of the game, they are in the addendum to Steve's post from Friday.  After the jump is just an embedded video of all the highlights from the game from NHL.com.  Thanks for reading and please leave all your thoughts about tonight's game in the comments.

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