Thompson helps Lightning beat Devils, end losing streak

BY Jim Hague, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


NEWARK, N.J. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning took the ice Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils with a little sense of urgency, especially after having lost their five previous games.
"We were desperate," said forward Nate Thompson, who scored two goals and added an assist in the Lightning's big 5-2 win over the sputtering Devils at the Prudential Center. "We really needed this one. We talked all day about doing the little things right. You get a win like this and it can give us momentum moving forward. We just needed to get it going, relax, and play our game."
It was the first two-goal game of Thompson's career.
"It always feels good when you can contribute," said Thompson, who now has three goals in two games against New Jersey this season and five overall. "I don't get a chance to score two goals often. I was pretty close to a third. We did a great job of taking advantage of our opportunities. Both of my goals tonight came off great passes. I'd be a fool if I missed them. "
The win enabled the Lightning (10-12-1) to snap a five-game losing streak, while the Devils (10-8-5), the defending Eastern Conference champions, lost for the sixth straight time. In a span of three weeks, the Devils have dropped from first place in the Eastern Conference to now holding a share of the eighth spot with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher has been pleased with his team's play, despite the five-game losing streak.
"We've been building this," Boucher said. "Over the last 10 games, we played just one bad one. We had other games where we deserved them, but we sabotaged ourselves. But this was another brick in the building process. It's brick-by-brick. We have a lot of young guys. They've come in and played well. To see them come along is good for this organization and our depth. We've been playing terrific. We just didn't win."
Boucher spoke to the team in a pre-game meeting and made sure his message was heard.
"I've been saying that we needed to work hard for a long time and tonight the hard work paid off," Boucher said. "We played great against great opponents, but can't finish. We're right there with them and can't get it done. So many times, being good offensively is important. I told the players before the game that now is the time. They had to turn it up. They deserve this. I was hoping that a game like this would have come earlier."
Martin St. Louis and Alexander Killorn each had a goal and an assist and Cory Conacher and Vincent Lacavalier had two assists each for the Lightning.
The victory was the eighth for Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback, who stopped 25 shots.
The Devils spoiled Lindback's shutout bid with a goal with 6:16 remaining by Adam Henrique on a wraparound score past Lindback. Patrik Elias added a power-play goal with 4:45 remaining.
"I never want to let a shutout go, but the win was more important," Lindback said. "I can get a shutout another time. It was a huge game for us. We've been on a tough road trip and just been struggling. We showed all game that we're a better team than we have been playing."
B.J. Crombeen scored an empty-net goal to close out the scoring for Tampa Bay with 1:20 left.
The Devils' lackluster play of late continued in the first period. Although they outshot the Lightning 10-4 during the period, the Devils didn't have any legitimate scoring chances.
The Lightning got on the board first, when Thompson scored his fourth goal of the season. Rookie Ondrej Palat, playing in only his second career NHL game, found Thompson alone in front and Thompson knocked it past Johan Hedberg with just 2:56 remaining in the first period.
It marked the seventh straight game that New Jersey surrendered the game's first goal.
Tampa Bay pushed the lead to 2-0 when Martin St. Louis benefitted from an odd man rush off a scoring attempt from the Devils' Adam Henrique. St. Louis carried the puck out of his own zone, then fed Lecavalier, who gave it to Killorn, who then slid it across to the streaking St. Louis, who tallied his sixth goal of the season.
The second goal caused some Devils fans to chant "Kinkaid, Kinkaid," in honor of Keith Kinkaid, the rookie goalie who was recalled from the minors when Martin Brodeur went on the injured list with a bad back.
After Hedberg gave up the third goal of the game and the 24th allowed over the last six games, DeBoer pulled the 39-year-old veteran in favor of the 23-year-old rookie, much to the joy of the crowd.
The third goal was scored by rookie Killorn, with assists going to Lecavalier and St. Louis at the 13:13 mark, sending Hedberg to the bench.
Kinkaid made his first NHL save on a slap shot by Pierre-Cedric Labrie with 1:37 remaining in the second period.
The highlight of the evening came when Kinkaid stopped Steven Stamkos on a breakaway, going spread eagle to stop Stamkos on the right side with a pad save with his left leg.
Devils captain Bryce Salvador doesn't understand why his team is playing so poorly.
"We've definitely put ourselves behind the eight-ball, no question," Salvador said. "We've been playing catch-up hockey, constantly playing from behind and it's hard to play that way. You never want to go through a stretch like we've had. Now that we're in a bad way, it's up to us how we respond and how we get out of it."
NOTES: The Devils place forward Bobby Butler on waivers Monday and was quickly claimed by Nashville. Butler had one goal and one assist in 14 games after signing during the offseason from Ottawa. The ascension of Andrei Loktionov as a contributing performer made Butler expendable. Lotkionov, acquired by the Devils in a Feb. 6 trade with the Los Angeles Kings, has scored three goals and added two assists in his last six games with New Jersey. ... There was some talk that Devils coach Peter DeBoer might give rookie Kinkaid his first start in net, but DeBoer never wavered with the decision and stayed with Hedberg, even though it meant the 39-year-old veteran would have to play on consecutive nights. That all changed when DeBoer yanked Hedberg in the middle of the second period. ... The 23-year-old Kinkaid became the youngest goalie to play for the Devils since former first round pick Jean-Francois Damphousse in 2002. ... Starting goalie Martin Brodeur remains on the injured list with a bad back. Brodeur has missed the last five games and there's no timetable for his return ... Both teams entered Tuesday night's game with a five-game losing streak. ... The Lightning scratched left wing Benoit Pouliot, who left the game against Boston on March 2 with an upper body injury and has not returned to action. Pouliot has six goals and eight assists in 21 games for the Lightning. ... Stamkos, the NHL Player of the Month for February and second in the NHL in scoring, had eight goals in his last nine games ... Lightning forward Palat has only been active for two games, but has collected an assist in each game.