NEWARK, N.J. — If you were looking for an indication of how comfortable Anders Lindback was in net Tuesday, consider his attempt to score a goal.
It was late in the Lightning's 5-2 win over the Devils at the Prudential Center. New Jersey's net was empty, so why not?
"I saw my chance, and it wasn't too far off," Lindback said of his rinklong fling that slid wide right. "Maybe another time."
This is what confidence does. It allows you to try the unexpected and prods you to try it again.
Not that Lindback ever doubted himself. But putting together a good game after a forced eight days and four games on the bench clearly returned some swagger to the player on whom Tampa Bay is pinning its long-term goaltending hopes.
The timing could not be better as the availability of fellow goalie Mathieu Garon is uncertain because of a lower-body injury sustained Monday in Pittsburgh.
Garon had been ably carrying the load (3.01 goals-against average, .892 save percentage) while Lindback was given what coach Guy Boucher called a "breather."
"I thought he played big and calm," Boucher said of Lindback's victory over the Devils. "That's the thing with him. He's got terrific reflexes, but we felt he was using them too much. He was too busy. (Tuesday), he did a terrific job of being big and calm."
Lindback, 24, had been big and shaky. In four games before his sabbatical, he had a 4.20 goals-against average and .846 save percentage. In his last start, Feb. 24 at Pittsburgh, he let in three goals on 10 shots and was pulled.
At that point, Lindback had played in 14 of the Lightning's 18 games, a lot considering he had played just 38 NHL games in two previous seasons as the backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne.
The coaches determined the 6-foot-6 Swede needed a break.
"Give him a breather and some repetition and practice he hadn't had in weeks," Boucher said.
Lindback worked intensely with goaltenders coach Frantz Jean mostly on positioning but also on knowing when to hold his ground and not flop as much.
"Basically, taking advantage of his size," Jean said. "He's such a big guy. If he's in the right position, pucks will just hit him."
That is pretty much what happened against the Devils.
"Just a good feeling out there," said Lindback, who stopped 25 of 27 shots. "I saw the puck well, and I controlled the first (shots). So I calmed myself down in a lot of situations. We'll watch video of this and try to take it with me and try to get better."
Lindback, expected to face the Jets tonight, has a way to go. He is 8-5-1, but his 3.18 goals-against average entered Wednesday 31st among 38 goaltenders with at least 10 games, his .892 save percentage 33rd.
"He's shown flashes of brilliance, and I know he wants to get that consistently," center Steven Stamkos said. "I know he wants to be that consistent guy who can be counted on in all situations. He's practiced hard, come to the rink, got his work done."
"I'm excited," Lindback said. "I want to play every game and try to win every game. That's just my approach."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]