TAMPA — One second.
That is how close the Lightning came to its first win of the season.
One lousy second.
But with one second left in the third period, New Jersey's Travis Zajac tied the score, and Tampa Bay lost its home opener 4-3 in a shootout Thursday night at three-quarters full St. Pete Times Forum.
"It's ridiculous," center Steven Stamkos said.
"Frustrating," left wing Ryan Malone said.
And for coach Rick Tocchet, one of the strangest moments of his 25 years in the league.
"I've been involved in a lot of goofy and bad things that happened," he said.
"But this is top three or four for me."
More frustrating for the Lightning (0-1-2) is that it dominated.
It had a 44-34 shot advantage, and it tied a team mark for shots in a period with 25 in the second, when New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur earned his keep.
It won the territorial battle. It led in hits, blocked shots and faceoff percentage.
In fact, Tocchet said, "The second and third period was as good as I've seen a Tampa Bay hockey team play in a year."
Stamkos scored twice. Marty St. Louis had two assists as did rookie defenseman Victor Hedman, including a rink-long rush and cross-ice pass to Todd Fedoruk, whose goal 5:41 into the third period gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
Goaltender Mike Smith made 31 saves and shook off the Devils' first goal, scored when he pushed the puck into his own net with the shaft of his stick.
He also shook off being run over in the second period by New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner, who was rammed into him by Malone.
Smith, who needed seven months to overcome postconcussion syndrome, sustained a cut near his right eye when his helmet flew off but said he had other concerns.
"I thought I had a broken back," he said.
"I got twisted around. It felt like all the bones in my back cracked."
Backbreaking was Zajac's goal, scored when the puck dribbled to him after teammate Zach Parise misfired on his shot from the faceoff circle.
"I was just trying to whack it," Zajac said.
"Smith was playing pretty good all night. You knew it was going to take a lucky goal to get it by him."
The shootout was anticlimactic as New Jersey won 2-0 with Stamkos and Alex Tanguay unable to score and the Devils getting their eighth straight win over Tampa Bay, three by shootout.
"It's like something's stopping us from getting the win," Stamkos said. "I don't know what it is. It's frustrating. But we're showing life. We're showing were going to be a team to be dealt with this season.
"It's just a matter of getting some positive bounces."
The Lightning did get a point for the regulation tie.
"But the guys deserved better," Tocchet said.
"You feel bad for the guys in the locker room."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
|Devils win shootout 2-0|
|Devils win shootout 2-0|
First Period—1, New Jersey, Parise 1 (Zajac, Martin), 4:46 (pp). Penalties—Wright, TB (high-sticking), 3:20; Hedman, TB (slashing), 14:16.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (St. Louis, Hedman), 9:49. 3, New Jersey, Pandolfo 1 (Clarkson, Niedermayer), 18:09. Penalties—Salvador, NJ (interference), 10:08; Oduya, NJ (holding), 14:45; Salvador, NJ, major (fighting), 18:48; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 18:48.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 2 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 1:52 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Fedoruk 1 (Hedman, Ohlund), 5:41. 6, New Jersey, Zajac 2 (Rolston, Parise), 19:59. Penalties—New Jersey bench, served by Pikkarainen (too many men), 1:40; Zubrus, NJ (holding), 10:50.
Shootout—New Jersey 2 (Parise G, Langenbrunner G), Tampa Bay 0 (Stamkos NG, Tanguay NG). Shots on Goal—New Jersey 12-9-6-7—34. Tampa Bay 7-25-9-3—44. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—New Jersey, Brodeur 1-2-0 (44 shots-41 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 0-1-2 (34-31).