TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Brent Sutter’s debut and the start of the New Jersey Devils’ road show ended on a sour note.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, including a tiebreaking goal with 3:52 left in the third, spoiling Sutter’s first game as Devils coach and leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 win on Thursday night.
“We played pretty well the last 17 minutes of the first and played a really good second period,” Sutter said. “We had lots of chances. I thought we stood around too much in the third. We weren’t assertive enough.”
New Jersey is opening the season with a nine-game road trip, which will allow construction of the Devils new arena in Newark to be completed for the home opener Oct. 27 against Ottawa.
Vinny Prospal set up Lecavalier’s second goal to make it 2-1 from the right circle with a backhand pass through the slot.
“He’s the best player in the league,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said of Lecavalier. “He got a couple of quality chances and beared down on it.”
Prospal added an empty-net goal with 58 seconds left.
“I felt he was going to be there,” Prospal said of Lecavalier’s second goal. “The good players find a way to get open, and he got open.”
“The game breakers took over,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “Homer gave us a chance when we were fighting it.”
Brian Gionta scored for the Devils and Brodeur made 21 saves.
“It was a tough loss for us,” New Jersey center Sergei Brylin said. “Nobody wants to start the year with a loss, but I guess we have to look at the positive things that we did. Just little mistakes here and there cost us a game.”
Gionta redirected Zach Parise’s backhand from the slot during a power play to put the Devils up 1-0 at 9:06 of the first. It was Gionta’s 200th career point.
Lecavalier tied it at 1-all with 10:25 left in the second.
“We had the matchups we wanted against him,” Sutter said. “It had nothing to do with who we had out on the ice against him. We just weren’t intelligent. When you have your top-end guys out on the ice, they’ve got to do the job.”
Brodeur preserved the 1-1 tie with a glove save on Michel Ouellet’s in-close deflection with 10:10 remaining in the third. Holmqvist turned aside a good scoring chance by Travis Zajac with 5:35 to go in regulation.
“I felt we got better as a team as the game went on,” St. Louis said. “We were a little nervous in the beginning.”
Tampa Bay was without D Dan Boyle (wrist surgery), C Ryan Craig (herniated disc), C Tim Taylor (hip surgery) and C Andreas Karlsson (abdominal strain). Karlsson is expected back next week, but Boyle (three to five weeks), Taylor (several months at least) and Craig (indefinitely) could all be out an extended period. … Injured Devils sitting out were D Colin White (eye), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (groin) and RW Cam Janssen (shoulder).