The New Jersey Devils have struggled recently, but still sit just two points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. A matchup against the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning may help them climb further up in the standings.
New Jersey faces off against the Lightning tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. Game time is 7 p.m. and can be seen on VERSUS.
The Devils have struggled since the beginning of December. They're just 2-3-0 in five games, allowing four goals in three of those five games. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Devils, 2-1, Saturday at the Prudential Center. Max Pacioretty broke a scoreless tie in the second period, netting a powerplay goal just 1:07 into the middle frame. Erik Cole stretched the lead to 2-0 in the third period, scoring his 10th goal of the season. The Devils would climb back into the game, as Nick Palmieri broke Carey Price's shutout with his fourth goal of the season at 13:34 of the final period.
Zach Parise had a chance to tie the game, earning a penalty shot with 49.4 seconds left in regulation. He couldn't put it past Price, as the Canadiens goalie stopped his backhand attempt with his left pad. Peter DeBoer refused to say the penalty shot cost the Devils a chance to win.
"It's tough, but the game wasn't lost on that play," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "That's the key to it. We had opportunities at different points in the game I thought to grab control, especially early. We didn't and that's what happens."
New Jersey hasn't won a game in regulation since a 1-0 shutout win over the New York Islanders November 25.
Tampa Bay has had its own share of problems. The Lightning have won just once in their last six games. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Lightning, 5-2, Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first period on Ryan Shannon's second goal of the season. They couldn't hold on, allowing three goals in the second period. Vincent Lecavlier brought the Lightning within one, scoring a powerplay goal to cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2. Philadelphia would pull away, scoring two more goals in the final period.
Mathieu Garon stopped 27 shots and picked up his seventh loss of the season.
Johan Hedberg will start for New Jersey. He leads the team with eight wins.
Both teams are missing two of their top players. New Jersey lost two defensemen last week. Andy Greene will miss four weeks after suffering a toe fracture, and the team placed Anton Volchenkov on injured reserve with a hand injury.
Martin St. Louis and Pavel Kubina will be out for Tampa Bay. St. Louis, who has orbital and nasal fractures, will miss his second straight game. Kubina is out with a lower body injury.
This is the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. New Jersey won the first matchup, 4-2, November 19 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson scored second period goals to stake New Jersey to a 3-0 lead. Tampa Bay struck twice in the third period, shrinking the Devils lead to 3-2. Ryan Carter iced the victory, scoring the Devils' fourth goal at 17:57 of the final period.