TAMPA — The Lightning so dominated the second period Saturday that the Devils had more penalties (five) than shots on goal (four), and yet Tampa Bay was unable to build on a 1-0 lead as they sought to clinch the opening-round series.
Nowhere was there more potential frustration than the power play -— they had four in a span of eight minutes, 21 seconds of the second, then a fifth as the third began. But the Lightning stayed patient, focusing on the way they were controlling the game, if not the scoreboard.
"Persistence, patience, not getting frustrated," said Ryan Callahan, who returned for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury in Game 2, and got an empty-net goal with 1.7 seconds remaining to seal the win.
The power plays came in quick succession in the second period — the second just five seconds after the first ended, the fourth just 14 seconds after the third. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said while they didn't result in any goals, they took New Jersey away from any opportunity to tie the game, tiring out their blue line in the process.
"It's not necessarily about the scoring. It's about 'Don't lose momentum for your team,' " Cooper said. "The only thing that was costing momentum was the big saves (Cory) Schneider was making. We were getting our looks … that's what I liked about what was going on. … 'Don't worry if we don't score on this. You guys have done everything we've wanted of you.' "
Video: Lightning’s Ryan Callahan says he loved how Tampa Bay closed out opening series with strong defense to eliminate the Devils. pic.twitter.com/piDC3uQGFA— Greg Auman (@gregauman) April 21, 2018
Get your seats
The Lightning doesn't yet know whether it will face the Bruins or Maple Leafs in the next round, or when that series will begin, but tickets will go on sale Monday at 1 p.m., with Tampa Bay hosting Games 1 and 2, and potentially Games 5 and 7 if necessary. Tickets will be available at TampaBayLightning.com/tickets or at Ticketmaster.com.
When the Lightning eliminates teams in the playoffs, it does it with defense. Going back to the 2014-15 season, in Tampa Bay's last six games that clinched playoff series wins, the team has allowed a total of two goals in those six wins.
That includes four shutouts and two wins allowing only one goal — Saturday's win, and one against Montreal in 2015. Andrei Vasilevskiy took a shutout well into the third period, losing only on a 6-on-5 goal with three minutes remaining after New Jersey pulled its goalie, down 2-0.
Times columnist Tom Jones and Roger Mooney break down the Lighting’s series-clinching 3-1 victory over New Jersey Saturday at Amalie Arena. Post your questions here and they’ll answer them.Posted by Tampa Bay Times - Sports on Saturday, April 21, 2018
The game's first goal was an all-rookie affair, with D Mikhail Sergachev scoring on an assist from Tony Cirelli. It was the first career playoff goal for Sergachev and the first playoff assist for Cirelli.
In doing so, Sergachev became the youngest Lightning player to score in a playoff game — Sergachev is 19 years, 300 days old, breaking the mark set in 1996 by Jason Wiemer, who was 20 years, two days old.
The goal was the first in the series by a Lightning defenseman, and Sergachev is just the third Lightning rookie defenseman to score in a playoff game, following Paul Ranger (2006) and Nikita Nesterov (2015).
Former Lightning star Brian Boyle, who traded words and blows with Sergachev in this series, drew a chorus of boos from the Amalie Arena crowd every time he touched the puck Saturday. Boyle played only 11 shifts. … Tampa Bay controlled the faceoffs in Saturday's game, taking 33 of 55 for 60 percent. Cedric Paquette went 8-1 on faceoffs, while Tyler Johnson went 6-3. … Bucs QB Jameis Winston was among those in attendance. "I've got to get to some Lightning games, because winning is contagious," Winston said Monday. "I want to be a part of that."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.