TAMPA – The Devils had their top checking line on the Lightning’s line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller during Game 1 on Thursday and it worked until Kucherov’s empty-netter in the waning seconds put the finishing touch on the 5-2 victory.
By then, the outcome was decided largely because of the work of the second and third lines of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde, Tony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, respectively.
"That’s what makes teams very successful, especially at this time of the year," Stamkos said. "You’re going to have certain lines trying to shutdown certain lines. We have the depth at really all four lines that guys can chip in and score. We’ve seen when we’ve done on extended runs how important and vital that is. We’re a group that has that and I think that makes it tough for other teams to match up."
Johnson (goal, assist), Palat (goal, two assists), Gourde (goal, assist), Point (assist) and Killorn (goal) will make it hard for the Devils to defend if they produce like they did in Game 1. The Devils’ top line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri will have to defend against the Point line as much as the Point line is defending against them.
Opening night jitters
The Lightning took a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes because it had the better of play. The Devils said there was a reason for that.
"I just thought the guys were nervous," Devils coach John Hynes.
The Devils are the more inexperienced postseason team.
"Starting on time is a big part of hockey and especially playoff hockey," Hall said. "We have to be a team that’s ready to battle right off the bat and just be aware that they have more than one line, more than Stamkos and Kucherov. They have a lot of dangerous guys and we have to be aware."
He said it
"We got more to give. Last night was a great start, but we got more." — Lightning coach Jon Cooper on the Game 1 effort
Passing it forward
Much was made before the series about the Lightning’s playoff experience, but four of its key players — Point, Gourde, Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev — made their playoffs debut Thursday.
The newbies looked to the veterans for their guidance.
"There was a lot more than looking," coach Jon Cooper said. "A lot of the guys spoke to them. Part of moving into this was, ‘Hey, let’s pass the experience on. Let’s pass the wisdom on of what’s worked and what hasn’t.’ This is just one game. Who knows how (Game 2 is) going to go? There’s emotional swings throughout games, throughout series. It’s one those, you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. You have to keep grinding. For one day it was good."
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50