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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Devils bid to inch closer to wild-card spot in clash...

NHL News: Devils bid to inch closer to wild-card spot in clash vs. Lightning

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A pivotal weekend got off to a promising start Saturday for both the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Both teams will try to turn their weekend into a perfect one on Sunday afternoon when the Devils host the Lightning in Newark, N.J.

Each team will play for the second time in 24 hours after snapping worrisome skids with wins Saturday afternoon. The host Devils overcame a pair of one-goal deficits in a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, while the visiting Lightning held off a late rally by the New York Islanders to record a 4-2 win.

The results kept the Devils five points behind the Lightning in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey, which has 62 points, is alone in ninth place in the East following the Washington Capitals’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers later Saturday night.

The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Devils, who were outscored 11-3 in falling earlier to the Capitals and New York Rangers on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

New Jersey got off to a slow start Saturday, when it was outshot 10-5 in the first period and fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 in the second.

But Timo Meier and Ondrej Palat each scored quickly after the Canadiens’ go-ahead goals in the middle period. Captain Nico Hischier put the Devils ahead for good by scoring with 6:27 left in the third, and Jesper Bratt collected what proved to be the game-winning goal three minutes later.

Captain Nick Suzuki scored a goal with the extra skater with 1:51 remaining for the Canadiens.

“It definitely wasn’t our best performance, but we found a way to win a game, which is really important,” Meier said. “There’s different levels we can reach, so we’ve got to build on this one.”

Tampa Bay entered Saturday mired in a three-game losing streak in which it was outscored 18-7.

The Lightning struck quickly, though, on Saturday afternoon, when Nicholas Paul and Nikita Kucherov scored within an 82-second span early in the first period. Brayden Point scored in the second before Tampa Bay withstood a third-period rally by the Islanders.

New York collected 19 shots and pulled within 3-2 on late goals by captain Anders Lee and Brock Nelson before Luke Glendening scored into an empty net with 30 seconds left for the Lightning.

“We knew how big these points were coming in for both teams,” Point said. “I liked our game. I liked our compete, and I’m happy we got the job done, especially considering last game. They took it to us pretty good (in a 6-2 loss to New York on Feb. 8).

“I thought that we played pretty well,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said before turning his attention to his penalty kill, which thwarted four of five opportunities.. “We took too many penalties, and it cost us. I liked our compete. … We can’t take the penalties that we took.”

–Field Level Media

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