It wasn’t the prettiest game defensively, but the New Jersey Devils showed how dangerous they can be offensively when they rallied three times from one-goal deficits to blast past the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 on Thursday night at Prudential Center. Six different players scored a goal in the win, showing just how deep their scoring depth is, matching the goal output they had in their three previous games; five Devils had multiple points in the win. For Tampa the lone bright spot was Ryan Malone who scored his team’s first three goals in recording his fourth career hat trick.
Malone opened the scoring with 44 seconds left in the first period, slamming the puck in from the side of Martin Brodeur’s net after a point shot softly redirected to him.
Once the second period began, all hell broke loose in the Devils’ house; Dainius Zubrus scored a shorthanded goal at 3:07, converting a perfect saucer-pass from Patrik Elias at the end of a two-on-one. “It was the end of our shift, so we were a little tired,” said Zubrus of the odd-man rush. “Patty made a really nice saucer pass, over the defender’s stick; and it was flat, right on my (stick) tape. I don’t think you can ask for a better pass, and I just shot it right away.” Malone responded for the Lightning 93 seconds later when his attempted pass went past Brodeur off of New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky’s skate. Jacob Josefson retied the game for the Devils 2:14 after Malone’s second goal, snapping a shot past the oft-helpless Tampa netminder Dwayne Roloson.
Malone completed his hat trick at 10:13, giving the Lightning their final lead of the game when he was able to sweep a rebound past Brodeur from the edge of the goalmouth. Ilya Kovalchuk netted his team-leading 33rd goal after a pretty passing play with Zach Parise and Adam Henrique just over three minutes later, setting the stage for the Devils to grab a hold of the see-saw game. Six seconds into a power play Zidlicky atoned for his earlier misfortune when he blasted a rocket past Roloson to give New Jersey its first lead of the night, just 71 seconds after Kovalchuk had tied the game.
Alexei Ponikarovsky deftly tipped Bryce Salvador’s long shot past Roloson 2:25 into the final period; although the goal was announced as Salvador’s first of the season it was changed later by the official scorer. “I want to see the proof,” joked Salvador after the game. “I have to make sure Alex tipped it.” Ponikarovsky said he knew he had tipped it and told his teammate that on the bench. “I tipped it with my stick at my waist, I knew it was a good goal, there was no doubt in my mind (that it was mine).”
Less than four minutes later, Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson controlled the puck in Tampa’s zone for a while which resulted in the latter finding the puck and scoring his 29th of the season from atop the crease. Trevor Smith scored the final goal of the game with nine seconds remaining, only changing the final score but not the outcome. “We can’t be overconfident (after tonight),” said Ponikarovsky. “The next game, everything goes back to zero; we have to win another game. We have to do the same things and work hard to get goals.”
New Jersey’s magic number is down to one point — gained by them or lost by Buffalo.
Game Notes: Zidlicky led all skaters in ice-time with 21:33, while Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman led his squad with 21:12. Kovalchuk led all players with seven shots on goal and Malone led the Lightning with six. Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov, playing in his first game since last Friday, had a game-high of four hits, also matched by Ponikarovsky. Henrique had two assists and was a +3 (game-high). Travis Zajac, playing in his third game back won 14 of the 18 face-offs he took. New Jersey (94 points, 6th in East) is off until Saturday when they play at Carolina (77 points, 13th in East) and that same night Tampa (77 points, 11th in East) returns home to host Winnipeg (78 points, 10th in East).
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): goal (33), assist (44)
#2 — Ryan Malone (TB): 3 goals (18)
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ): 2 assists (47)
Dan Rice can be reached via email at email@example.com