Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos scored two late goals to put the heat on New Jersey in the final period, but the Devils held on to claim a 5-4 win over the Lightning on Monday.
New Jersey went 2-0 up in the first through Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus, before Steve Downie and Blair Jones tied the game in the final few minutes of the period.
The Devils dominated the second and extended their lead to 5-2 on goals from Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique.
Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson was pulled after allowing New Jersey’s third goal 56 seconds into the second period. He gave way to Mathieu Garon, who surrendered the next two scores to the Devils.
There would be no easy cruise in the third though as Stamkos pulled a goal back midway through the period then grabbed his 18th of the season in the final minute to make New Jersey (15-13-1) sweat.
“That’s been our problem. We’ve had leads and we’re not doing a good job of protecting them,” Parise told reporters after finishing with a goal and two assists. “We have to address that and see what we can do differently.”
Both teams are struggling in the Eastern Conference, with New Jersey coming into the game losers of five of their last seven, while the Lightning (12-16-2) fell to their seventh loss in eight games.
Tampa Bay outshot New Jersey 36-22 yet still came up short.
“We’re finding ways to lose games right now,” Stamkos told reporters. “We showed a lot of character, like we always do; never quit and come back — but the second period killed us.”