NEWARK, N.J. — So, that is what a winning locker room looks and sounds like.
Players smiling and laughing, music on the stereo and Lightning wing Marty St. Louis joking that reporters have "finally something good to write about."
Tampa Bay's 5-2 victory over the Devils Tuesday night at the Prudential Center that wrapped up a four-game road trip was good on many levels. The most basic: it broke a five-game losing streak.
There was Nate Thompson's first career two-goal game and goaltender Anders Lindback, in his first start since Feb. 24, with 25 saves in a solid effort, and even taking a shot, wide, at an empty net.
But most important was the way the Lightning (10-12-1) played — in control, smart with the puck, defensive minded, transitioning to offense without making what coach Guy Boucher calls "gambling" plays that so often have backfired and ended up in the Tampa Bay net.
Yes, the 91-second blip when the Devils scored shorthanded and on the power play to make it 4-2 with 4:45 left in the third period was bothersome.
"I'm not going to lie to you," defenseman Victor Hedman said, "it got a little nervous at the end."
Still, Thompson said the team, overall, played smart. "We did a great job of managing the game. We took the opportunities when we had them. There's a time and place for every time you go on offense. We did a great job of managing that."
"I've told the guys a thousand times if we just get rid of the impatience we'll be solid," Boucher said. "We'll get offensive chances without pressing and that's what we got. The guys deserve it."
Let's be honest, it helped that Tampa Bay faced a Devils squad that has lost six straight and is without injured goaltender Marty Brodeur. Still, those are the teams that should get a foot on the throat.
The Lightning did that by keeping New Jersey shooters to the outside and cleaning up rebounds left by Lindback. Hedman was huge in that area. Defenseman Eric Brewer also had a strong game after two straight in which his miscues led to opposition goals.
"When we play like this I feel comfortable because I know the guys are going to be there to help me if I screw up or if the puck bounces the wrong way," Lindback said.
St. Louis and Alex Killorn also scored and B.J. Crombeen got his first Lightning goal into an empty net. Cory Conacher and Vinny Lecavalier each had two assists.
Then there was Thompson, who has five goals on the season and added an assist Tuesday for a career-best three points.
"Don't expect this to happen all the time," he joked.
First—1, Tampa Bay, Thompson 4 (Conacher, Palat), 17:04. Penalties—Salo, TB (delay of game), :32; Labrie, TB, major (fighting), 11:34; Barch, NJ, major (fighting), 11:34.
Second—2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 6 (Killorn, Lecavalier), 5:53. 3, Tampa Bay, Killorn 4 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 13:13. Penalties—Henrique, NJ (holding), :41; Aulie, TB, major (fighting), 14:23; Clarkson, NJ, major (fighting), 14:23; Hedman, TB (roughing), 19:17; Janssen, NJ (charging), 19:17.
Third—4, Tampa Bay, Thompson 5 (Conacher, Salo), 8:36. 5, New Jersey, Henrique 6 (Carter), 13:44 (sh). 6, New Jersey, Elias 6 (Zajac, Kovalchuk), 15:15 (pp). 7, Tampa Bay, Crombeen 1 (Hall, Thompson), 18:40 (en). Penalties—Gionta, NJ (slashing), 12:23; Labrie, TB (slashing), 15:00; Kovalchuk, NJ (hooking), 18:40. Shots—Tampa Bay 4-10-10—24. New Jersey 10-4-13—27. Power plays—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; New Jersey 1 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Lindback 8-5-1 (27 shots-25 saves). New Jersey, Hedberg 2-6-2 (11-8), Kinkaid (13:13 second, 12-11). A—15,229 (17,625). T—2:26.