The New Jersey Devils dropped a second consecutive game to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, this time by a score of 5-3, falling behind in their best-of-seven playoff series 2-0. They now return home, looking to find a way to minimize the mistakes that plagued them in Florida and get back into this series.
Coming into this matchup, they knew they were going up against the top scoring team in the National Hockey League. Tampa averaged an astonishing 3.61 goals per game. However, the Devils were unable to limit their mistakes in the first two games, spending too much time in their own zone and not clearing the puck when they had the opportunity. Against a team that features the likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and plenty of quality secondary scoring, that is a recipe for disaster, and it showed.
One silver lining to take out of the first two games is that it reassured the notion that the Devils are a team that is not going to quit – ever. Even after being dominated in the second period on Saturday and falling behind 5-1, the team battled back to make it interesting to the point where they were able to pull their goaltender. However, battling back is not a theme this team wants to continue, or else their season will be over on Wednesday night.
A key for New Jersey is to tilt the ice towards Tampa’s end right from the get-go. The Devils won all three meeting with the Lightning in the regular season, and in all three they scored the first goal. They need to put the Lightning on their heels early and make them play from behind, instead of the other way around.
They will return home on Monday for Game 3, playing in a building in which they went 23-14-4 in the regular season. One interesting decision will be who gets the start in net. By no means have all the goals scored by the Lightning in this series been the fault of Keith Kinkaid, but now backup Cory Schneider looks sharp in the relief appearance. It will be intriguing to see who third-year coach John Hynes rolls with on Monday night. Regardless, the Devils need to play with a lead and limit their turnovers against a very dangerous offense, and they will look to do that and more as they try to protect home-ice.