TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Things are going Tampa Bay’s way.
Richards’ pass from behind the net deflected into the net off the left skate of New Jersey defenseman Viktor Kozlov.
“I was just a lucky bounce,” Richards said. “In those type of games, with the amount of shots both teams had, you knew it was going to come down to something like that. It was one of those games that was grind it out.”
“This is part of the game,” Kozlov said.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said Richards’ goal “had eyes.”
The Lightning have a three-point lead over Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
“We’ve had a really good season, the whole team,” Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina said. “I’m looking forward to the playoffs. I want to go far in the playoffs.”
New Jersey tied it at 1 midway through the third on Patrik Elias’ 35th goal of the season.
Kubina opened the scoring midway through the second period for the Lightning, who swept the four-game season series with the Stanley Cup champion Devils.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 18 shots for Tampa Bay, and Brodeur made 15 saves for New Jersey. The Devils beat Tampa Bay in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
Brodeur is 21-10-5 against Tampa Bay, including four losses this season.
“We’re not getting the bounces or we’re not getting it done,” Brodeur said. “That’s definitely frustrating because we’re a team that usually is able to do that through the years. It’s amazing that as of late, we’re just having a hard time.”
The Devils are 4-4-1 in their past nine games.
Brodeur turned aside Jassen Cullimore’s low slot shot 7 1/2 minutes into the second.
Kubina put the Lightning up 1-0 at 8:32 of the second. He skated in from the blue line and scored from near the crease off a pass from behind the net by Fredrik Modin.
It was Kubina’s 17th goal of the season, a Lightning record for goals by a defenseman. Roman Hamrlik had 16 in 1995-96.
Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis then hit the left post three minutes later.
Brodeur was knocked to the ice late in the second, but remained in the game. The goalie went down as Giroux and Kubina skated toward the net after Brodeur made a save on Modin’s shot.
Kubina received an interference call on the play. Both Kubina and Giroux were given roughing penalties for an ensuing scrum behind the goal.
New Jersey did not record a shot and was called once for icing during the next two minutes on the power-play, including 24 seconds with a two-man advantage.
“It was an absolute joke,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said of Kubina’s interference penalty. “It was a big kill. You kill it off because it’s a lousy call.”
“If it’s the right call, it probably ends up in our net.”
Lightning D Darryl Sydor missed the game with an upper body injury. … New Jersey was 0-for-3 on the power-play. The Devils have converted just fourof their last 47 opportunities.