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Devils rudely snap streak

DEVILS 5, LIGHTNING 1: New Jersey dominates, dampening goalie Kevin Hodson's season start, halting unbeaten mark at 7.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was no in-depth analysis, no X's and O's, no diagramming why the Devils were able to produce wave after wave of offense and continually outfight Tampa Bay to the puck along the boards.

There was no need, coach John Tortorella said. It was simple.

"They were simply a better hockey team than we were tonight," he said.

New Jersey did it all Saturday, outshooting, outhustling and dominating the Lightning during a 5-1 victory at Continental Airlines Arena that snapped Tampa Bay's team-record tying, seven-game unbeaten streak.

The Lightning (5-1-2), which had been the NHL's only unbeaten team, never mustered a consistent attack, did nothing on its four power plays and gave little help to goalie Kevin Hodson, who made his first start of the season and had 25 saves.

"We didn't give him the support," defenseman Jassen Cullimore said. "You can't blame the goalie. We did not play well."

At least the Lightning avoided a shutout as Chris Dingman scored his second goal in as many games to make the score 4-1 11:29 into the third period.

But whatever solace that offered was short-lived as John Madden's second goal, on a breakaway, finished the scoring at 13:16.

"It was bound to happen," defenseman Dan Boyle said of the loss.

Of course it was, and Tampa Bay is still ahead of the Capitals in the Southeast Division.

Still, with all the Lightning had going in its first seven games, including Friday's emotional 3-2 victory over Washington at the St. Pete Times Forum, that the team's first loss happened as it did was eye-opening.

The Devils, who like Tampa Bay were playing the second game of a back to back, seemed quicker, stronger and more determined.

They swarmed at the defensive blue line, causing numerous turnovers, which created odd-man rushes.

New Jersey outshot the Lightning 13-5 in the first period and took a 2-0 lead on goals by Joe Nieuwendyk and Patrik Elias, finishing with a 30-21 shot advantage.

It all added up to an easy night for goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 20 saves in his 599th game to improve to 21-6-5 against Tampa Bay.

"It was a nice test for us," center Stephen Guolla said. "We had gotten off to a good start and we knew they were playing well. It was a nice challenge for us and nice to meet it the way we did."

Guolla has been a pain to the Lightning since the Thrashers claimed him off waivers from Tampa Bay in March 2000. His second-period goal, which gave New Jersey a 3-1 lead, was Guolla's fifth goal in seven games against his former team.

"Maybe sometimes you have a team's number," Guolla said. "I don't have any ill will. I'm just like anyone else trying to keep playing in the NHL."

With Tampa Bay playing its second back to back in a week and sixth game in nine days, it appeared time to give Nikolai Khabibulin a rest, though Tortorella declined to discuss the timing of his decision.

The first goal Hodson gave up was a fluke with Nieuwendyk tapping in the puck after Scott Niedermayer's shot from the point hit referee Mark Faucette, who was standing along the end boards, and bounced right to Nieuwendyk.

"A terrible break," Tortorella said. "It not only hit the ref once but twice because before that we had an opportunity to get the puck out and it hit him again. It was a nice centering pass by him."

A great effort by Elias created the second goal as the left wing skated down Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich and pushed him into the corner boards in the Tampa Bay zone and picked up the puck.

Two shots on goal later by Scott Gomez and Jeff Friesen, Elias put in a rebound at 13:44.

"They have a good team and obviously they were up for the game," Cullimore said. "But I think we beat ourselves."

It was that simple.


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