Tampa Bay takes season series from New Jersey 3-0-1
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002
TAMPA -- The Lightning took a huge step into the playoff race Monday night with a convincing 3-2 victory over the Devils at the Ice Palace.
|[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Lightning enforcer Gordie Dwyer, right, takes on New Jersey veteran Ken Daneyko in the first period. Dwyer later fought Colin White.
Tampa Bay came into the game eight points behind New Jersey and the Canadiens for the final spot in the Eastern Conference. But Montreal's loss to the Panthers, and the Lightning's first win at home in eight games, closed the gap to six.
Tampa Bay was 3-0-1 against New Jersey this season after going 2-15 the past four seasons. It also was the Lightning's third win this month, one more than it has gotten in January since it had six in 1996-97.
Christian Berglund gave the Devils an early 1-0 lead, but goals by Vinny Lecavalier, Ben Clymer and Martin St. Louis, the last two within 1:29, turned the first-period tide.
The Devils outshot Tampa Bay 14-2 in the third period and 33-17 overall, but Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was sturdy, especially after New Jersey closed to 3-2 at 13:54 into the third period on a goal from Sergei Brylin.
At least the Lightning started better than it did Saturday against the Canadiens, who scored on their first shot.
It took the Devils two shots.
Berglund cashed in at 2:27 from the slot off a pass from Scott Gomez. Breakdowns abounded. Lightning left wing Juha Ylonen couldn't tie up Gomez, and defenseman Dan Boyle was flat-footed in front of the net as Berglund got off his shot.
It was Berglund's second goal of the season in his seventh game. His first goal came Jan. 15 against the Lightning in New Jersey.
But instead of letting the game get out of hand as it did against Montreal, the Lightning responded.
Lecavalier tied the score 9:51 into the first off Boyle's sharp, cross-crease pass that opened the net for the center, who scored his ninth goal.
Lecavalier started the play as well, carrying the puck over the blue line and shielding it with his body while looking for a passing partner. He found Zdeno Ciger, who threaded a perfect pass through traffic to Boyle.
Tampa Bay got lucky at 11:40 when Petr Sykora swept through the crease and hit the post to Khabibulin's right.
The Lightning took advantage, scoring twice in 1:29 to finish the period with a 3-1 lead.
Clymer got the first goal, deflecting in Cory Sarich's shot from the point at 17:01. Sarich got the puck on a nice pass from Dave Andreychuk, who passed on a diagonal from behind the goal line to the point.
It was Clymer's ninth goal and first in 14 games.
St. Louis finished Tampa Bay's scoring at 18:30, when he beat Martin Brodeur on a breakaway with a nice deke to the left. It was St. Louis' team-high 16th goal and was made possible by a strong effort by Fredrik Modin, who broke up a Devils play and fed the puck to St. Louis while a Devils player hung on his back.
The Lightning kept the pressure on in the second period offensively and defensively.
St. Louis tested Brodeur with a shot from the slot that deflected off a stick and slowed considerably as it headed for the net, forcing the goalie to adjust to make a right-leg save.
Khabibulin stopped John Madden from the point then Jay Pandolfo on a rebound try from the front of the net at 10:29. He stopped Patrik Elias with a nice left-leg save at 11:31 after Elias took a feed in stride from Brian Rafalski.
But the Lightning's best work in the period came on the penalty kill. The Devils had two power-play opportunities and mustered just one shot as the Tampa Bay defense did a terrific job of keeping the play wide to the boards and disrupting New Jersey's playmaking.
The second penalty kill, with Vinny Prospal in the box for tripping, was extremely important as it was called with 2:14 left in the period. A Devils goal might have shifted the momentum heading into the third.
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