TAMPA — Keep this tidbit in your back pocket when you want to impress friends at a party:
With its 2-1 victory over the Devils on Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first NHL team to win back-to-back games against opponents with eight-game winning streaks.
Coach Guy Boucher's eyes lit up when told.
"Ooh, I've got to tell the players," he said. "We always tell the players we're in the business of doing the impossible."
That's probably overstating it a bit, but the Lightning did make a statement as it ended its 12-game homestand at 7-3-2 in front of a boisterous announced crowd of 19,563.
Tampa Bay (36-18-7) won a game as tight-checking and choking defensively as a playoff game. And it beat what Boucher called the league's most disciplined team, which went in on a 16-1-2 run.
And though second-period goals in 54 seconds by Marty St. Louis and Simon Gagne, both high on the glove side of goalie Johan Hedberg, produced a 2-0 lead, Tampa Bay was a defensive bulldog and limited New Jersey to 20 shots.
"On a scale of 1 to 10?" goalie Dwayne Roloson said when asked to rate the defensive effort. "Probably a 13, 14. The guys played unbelievable. We stuck to our game plan and did exactly what our coach wanted us to do."
That included clogging the neutral zone, not turning over the puck and getting sticks on pucks and bodies into shooting lanes.
"Every time we tried to chip it back, their D was on the puck," Devils center Dainius Zubrus said. "It was not easy to create offense."
"They are," said Hedberg, who had allowed one goal in three previous games, "a really, really good hockey team."
That team pretty much shut down Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Devils star extended his points streak to 12 games with an assist on Mark Fayne's goal 8:13 into the third period. But he had just two shots while being watched for the most part by defensemen Randy Jones and Eric Brewer and center Dominic Moore.
Jones in the defensive zone in the second period even dislodged Kovalchuk from the puck and knocked him down.
"When you can, you have to be physical on him, because he can dance around you any time," Jones said. "So you have to be physical, and there was an opportunity."
It's not as if the Devils had zero chances. Roloson, who had 19 saves, stopped Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri on breakaways. But Tampa Bay did not give up a shot in the final 2:10, and Jones and Brewer each had blocks.
"I loved the way we played the last five minutes, with aggressiveness and poise and confidence," Boucher said.
"Nobody was panicking. Nobody was screaming at refs. We weren't looking for anyone to help us. We were doing it."
And making history, too.
First Period—None. Penalties—None.
Second Period—1, TB, St. Louis 23 (Downie, Stamkos), 2:20. 2, TB, Gagne 10, 3:14. Penalties—Arnott, NJ (hooking), 18:51.
Third Period—3, New Jersey, Fayne 4 (Kovalchuk, Zajac), 8:13. Penalties—Bergenheim, TB (holding), 2:01; Tedenby, NJ (holding), 3:31. Shots on Goal—New Jersey 7-5-8—20. TB 8-15-7—30. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 0 of 1; TB 0 of 2. Goalies—New Jersey, Hedberg 13-11-2 (30 shots-28 saves). TB, Roloson 17-19-2 (20-19). A—19,563 (19,758). T—2:23. Referees—Paul Devorski, Rob Martell. Linesmen—Brian Murphy, Pierre Racicot.