TAMPA — The Lightning closed out its quarterfinal series against the Devils with a suffocating defensive effort.
The Devils finally solved Andrei Vasilevskiy in the waning moments with goalie Cory Schneider on the bench and the Devils skating 6-on-5. Kyle Palmieri gave the Devils life and cut into the Lightning lead at 2-1 with less than three minutes to play.
That goal made the final minutes more tense than the Lightning would want, but it held on for a 3-1 victory.
Ryan Callahan, who returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with an upper body injury, scored an empty netter with 1.7 seconds left to clinch the win.
The Lightning, which won the best-of-seven series in five games, faces the winner of the Boston-Toronto series. The Bruins lead the series 3-1 going into Game 5 Saturday night. The Lightning, the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, has home ice regardless of who wins.
Nikita Kucherov gave the Lightning some breathing room with his fifth goal of the series. It came with 7:37 to play put the Lightning ahead 2-0.
Kucherov's goal came not too long after the Lightning killed off its first penalty and answered the push by the Devils that it surely expected.
Anton Stralman fed Kucherov out near the blueline. Kucherov took one stride toward the net and fired the puck past Schneider.
Though he did not receive an assist on the play, credit J.T. Miller, who was parked in front of Schneider and waved his stick as the puck sped by.
Not one penalty was called during the first period, but five were called in the second — all on the Devils.
The Lightning had pressure on the power play but no goals.
The fifth penalty, a crosscheck on Andy Green, was called with seconds to play in the period, and since the Devils did not regain control of the puck before the period expired, it began at the start of the third.
The Devils killed that one off, too.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 8:07 of the first when Mikhail Sergachev beat Schneider to the glove side with a slapshot from atop the right faceoff circle.
The play was set up by Tony Cirelli, who beat Green to a loose puck behind the net. While the defenseman was winding up, Cirelli and Yanni Gourde skated in front of the net, drawing Green with them. That denied Schneider a good look at the shot.
It was Sergachev's first goal of the playoffs and the first by a Lightning defenseman. At 19 years, 300 days, Sergachev is the youngest Lightning player to score a playoff goal in franchise history.
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50