PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference semifinal; Devils lead 2-0.
It’s becoming clear that the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to stop New Jersey’s Jamie Langenbrunner while getting center Vincent Lecavalier on the scoresheet if they hope to get back into their playoff series with the Devils.
Their chances may improve when they head home for Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
Langenbrunner, who has an NHL-best seven postseason goals, has yet to score on the road in the playoffs. However, he has tallied the game-winners in both of the first two games against Tampa Bay, including Saturday’s 3-2 overtime triumph.
Langenbrunner went around the struggling Lecavalier and scored 2:09 into overtime as the Devils put the Lightning into an 0-2 hole for the second straight series.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t stop working,” New Jersey captain Scott Stevens said. “He comes to play every night and he’s got a lot of energy. He competes and that’s what the playoffs are all about.”
Langenbrunner, who had 10 playoff goals in 1999 to help Dallas to the Stanley Cup title, failed to tally during New Jersey’s first-round upset loss to Carolina last season. He scored 25 goals for the Devils during the regular season.
Lecavalier, who led the Lightning this season with 34 goals, has been virtually invisible against the Devils, failing to register a single point in the first two games while putting up a minus-3 rating.
“I think we can play a lot better. We can produce a lot more offense,” Lecavalier said. “The intensity was there but I’ve got to pick it up and bring my offense, get some shots. We can be a lot better. Every single game we’ll get better.”
The Lightning bounced back nicely from their last 0-2 deficit, sweeping four straight from the Washington Capitals in the opening round.
“We’re a team where we’ve been in this situation all year long,” said Lecavalier, who had three goals and two assists against the Capitals.
“We were always down, and people was kicking us when we were down. We’ve always come back and played really well.”
Game 4 is Wednesday in Tampa Bay.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Devils - 2nd seed; beat Boston Bruins 4-1, quarterfinals. Lightning - 3rd seed; beat Washington Capitals 4-2, quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Langenbrunner, 7 goals; John Madden, 7 assists; Langenbrunner and Madden, 10 points; Patrik Elias, 16 PIM. Lightning - St. Louis, 6 goals and 10 points; Dan Boyle, 6 assists; Lecavalier, 20 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 14.3 percent (4 for 28). Penalty killing: 87.0 percent (20 for 23). Lightning - Power play: 12.5 percent (4 for 32). Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (27 for 33).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 1-1-2. The Devils won 5-1 at home Oct. 26 in the first meeting, but Tampa Bay rebounded with a 3-1 victory at New Jersey on Nov. 23. The teams then played to ties in the final two meetings at the St. Pete Times Forum. Brodeur was 1-0-2 with a 1.89 GAA in the series, while Khabibulin went 1-0-2 with a 2.08 GAA.