TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Anthony Cirelli had the tiebreaking goal midway through the third after failing to score on a second-period penalty shot, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Thursday night.
Cirelli made it 3-2 off a pass from Brayden Point at 11:55, exactly 1 minute after Jack Hughes tied it for the Devils.
Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph had the other Lightning goals, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 31 saves as Tampa Bay improved to 11-1-1 in its last 13 home games.
”They did what they had to do to win the game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”I thought we played well enough to win this game.”
New Jersey got a goal and an assist from Damon Severson. Jesper Bratt had two assists.
”They’re the best in the league until someone knocks them off,” Hughes said. ”They know how to win. We’ll get to that point one day. That’s a better hockey team than us but we played a really good game. Disappointing we didn’t get two points.”
Tampa Bay played without right wing Nikita Kucherov, who is in COVID-19 protocols. Cooper couldn’t say whether Kucherov will return before next week’s All-Star break.
New Jersey’s Jon Gillies, acquired from St. Louis last month, stopped 32 shots in his seventh game this season and 19th of his career.
The Devils, who have lost six of seven, are without injured goalies Mackenzie Blackwood (left heel) and Jonathan Bernier (season-ending right hip surgery). Blackwood was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Joseph put the Lightning up 2-1 on a short-handed rebound goal of his own shot with 5:44 left in the second. It came 26 seconds after Gillies made a pad save on Cirelli’s penalty shot as Tampa Bay outshot the Devils 6-2 while Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta served a 4-minute high-sticking penalty.
”Whenever you could kill off a 4-minute power play and Jo gets one there too, it’s huge and gives momentum going in the right way,” Cirelli said.
Killorn tied it at 1 on a power-play rebound goal early in the second.
Severson gave the Devils a power-play goal in six consecutive games when he opened the scoring from the blue line 4:33 into the game. Tampa Bay had its stretch of not allowing a power-play goal in seven straight games at home end.
New Jersey nearly took a 2-0 lead midway through the first when Yegor Sharangovich’s shot went off Vasilevskiy glove and was swept away from goal line by Lightning forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Gillies stopped all 18 shots he faced during the first. New Jersey had 12 shots in the period.
Vasilevskiy turned aside a right-circle shot from Hughes in the first minute of the third.
”I thought our puck movement was excellent,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. ”Speed going up ice, skated really well. There was a lot to like inside the game.”
Lightning star Steven Stamkos had his lone shot on goal late in the third. New Jersey’s Nico Hischier, who missed part of Tuesday’s game after getting hurt, had no shots. … Vasilevskiy, 214-90-22 overall, is just 3-4-0 against the Devils. … Bratt has five assists and 10 points in his last seven games. … Point has 13 assists and 20 points in 13 games against New Jersey.
Devils: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton (jaw surgery on Jan. 5) is practicing in a no-contact jersey. … Center Michael McLeod (upper body) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Ty Smith (upper body) returned after missing three games.
Lightning: Defensemen Erik Cernak (lower body) and Zach Bogosian (lower body) are not expected back before the All-Star break.
Devils: At Carolina on Saturday night.
Lightning: Host Vegas on Saturday night.
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