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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki gets praise from both teams after shootout loss to New Jersey Devils

Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki made 37 saves and gave up just one regulation goal, in the second period.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki made 37 saves and gave up just one regulation goal, in the second period.

TAMPA — Backup G Antero Niittymaki, making his first start in two weeks due to the Lightning's light schedule, said it "felt like forever" since he had been in a game.

But Niittymaki showed no signs of rust Saturday against the Devils, with his 37-save effort the main reason the Lightning even made it to overtime in a 2-1 shootout loss.

"Nitty stood on his head," C Steven Stamkos said. "He pretty much got us that point by himself."

The game may have gotten out of hand in the first period had it not been for Niittymaki, who made a great glove save on a close chance by former Lightning D Cory Murphy and stopped an Ilkka Pikkarainen shot during a 2-on-1.

But Niittymaki's most impressive moment came when he made a save on a short-handed breakaway by Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner and a subsequent penalty shot. On the second, Niittymaki sprawled to make a left pad save on Langen­brunner's backhand attempt.

"I've faced Langenbrunner many times in my career, so I had a good feeling about that," Niittymaki said. "I was lucky enough to get my pad there."

Even Devils future Hall of Fame G Martin Brodeur was left impressed by Niittymaki, who is 2-1-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average in four starts this season.

"You've got to give him credit. He was unbelievable," Brodeur said. "He made some unbelievable saves."

DID YOU KNOW? The Devils' streak of seven straight road wins to start a season is the second-longest in NHL history, tying Toronto (1940-41), Philadelphia (1985-86) and Detroit (2005-06). The Sabres own the league record of 10 in a row, set in the 2006-07 season.

WATCH PARTY: The Lightning will host multiple happy hour watch parties for Monday's 5 p.m. game against the Flyers in Philadelphia and watch parties at four Beef 'O' Brady's locations for Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Check tampabaylightning.com for details.

odds and ends: With a third-period assist on Stamkos' goal, Marty St. Louis tallied his 600th career point and extended his season-opening point streak to 11 games (12 assists, 15 points). … Defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger (personal) were Lightning scratches.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki gets praise from both teams after shootout loss to New Jersey Devils 10/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 10:17pm]
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