NHL Game Recap: New Jersey Devils vs. Tampa Bay Lightning| 01/12/2024

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Despite a strong effort from a depleted lineup, the New Jersey Devils dropped the first game of their road trip 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils controlled play for much of the night but couldn’t complete the comeback and earn the second point in overtime. With the loss, the Devils dropped to 21-15-3. The Lightning improved to 21-17-5.

Game Recap

Period One

The Devils drew first blood in the matchup with a goal at 7:42. Dawson Mercer had a strong drive to the net, found his own rebound, and banked it in off Andrei Vasilevskiy’s back. Erik Haula and Colin Miller tallied the assists.

Midway through the period, at 12:35, Luke Glendening tied the game at one with an impressive deflection off the face-off that beat Vitek Vanecek. Nick Perbix and Austin Watson collected assists.

The Devils got a late power play to finish off the period. However, a bad turnover by Luke Hughes in the defensive zone led to a shorthanded goal for Glendening at 18:22. The goal was unassisted. The Devils trailed 2-1 at the first intermission despite outshooting the Lighting 10-6.

Period Two

Tampa extended the lead to 3-1 at 10:34 on a delayed penalty call. Brayden Point was left unguarded in the slot and buried his shot. Nikita Kucherov and Perbix had the assists.

However, the Devils rebounded with some strong shifts to pin Tampa Bay in their zone and eventually scored at 16:54. Jesper Bratt got the last touch on a puck that found its way behind Vasilevskiy after ricocheting off a Lightning player. John Marino and Tyler Toffoli got on the score sheet with assists. The Devils outshot Tampa Bay 10-9 in the middle frame.

Period Three

Needing a goal to tie, the Devils put together a strong third period. At 3:53, Nathan Bastian, playing in his 200th career game, stripped Perbix of the puck and beat Vasilevskiy on the breakaway. The goal was unassisted. The Devils led the shot count 8-4 in the third but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal.

Overtime

Overtime was short-lived for New Jersey. There was some early pressure and shots from Luke Hughes and Haula, but the Lightning ended the night with their first shot at 1:52. Darren Raddysh beat Vanecek’s glove side with assists to Kucherov and Vasilevskiy. The Devils outshot the Lightning 30-20 in the overtime loss.

Takeaways

Struggles Continue in Net for New Jersey

Goaltending continues to be a storyline for the wrong reasons. Despite some good saves, Vanecek still allowed four goals on 20 total shots for a .800 save percentage on the night. More concerning is the -1.72 goals saved above expected (GSAx). After this game, he sits last in the NHL in GSAx at -13.4, a massive drop-off from last season.

This leaves the Devils in a tricky spot. There are a lot of teams in the market for goaltending right now, so it is hard to imagine a trade getting done without giving up a highly touted prospect or even a roster player. Furthermore, with such a young team, it might not be in their best long-term interest to overpay for a goalie midseason.

Another option is bringing Akira Schmid back up from the AHL and sending Vanecek down, similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs did with Ilya Samsonov following his rough start to the season. It remains to be seen how Samsonov will fair in his return to NHL play, but perhaps a bit of a mental reset could do Vanecek some good. The danger of sending him down is potentially losing him through waivers, but with his current numbers and cap hit, it might not be a problem.

Devils Rise to the Occasion Amid Injury Battle

The Devils have been fighting the injury bug since the puck dropped on the season. Currently, they are missing Dougie Hamilton (torn pectoral), Jonas Siegenthaler (broken foot), and Tomas Nosek (foot surgery) with long-term injuries. They are also missing Jack Hughes (upper body), Timo Meier (abdomen), and Ondrej Palat (lower body), with injuries holding them out for an undisclosed period.

Despite missing so much of the lineup, the Devils put together a strong performance against Tampa Bay, outshooting them by ten and controlling play for much of the game. While a full two points are always the goal, it was encouraging to see the team rally and fight to earn the point in overtime. For the most part, they played a structured game and avoided some of the high-danger passing attempts that have bit them in the past. They were strong on the forecheck and gained zone time by winning puck battles, which they were rewarded for on the scoresheet. If the skaters can continue to put together similar performances, they should be able to at least tread water until reinforcements return from injury.

Next Up

The Devils continue their trip through Florida on Saturday evening when they take on the red-hot Florida Panthers.

The Panthers sit second in the Atlantic division, with a record of 27-12-2. They have also won each of their last nine contests, including a 3-2 overtime win on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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