TAMPA — Early in the third period, with his team up by a goal and needing some breathing room, Brayden Point broke in alone on Devils goalie Cory Schneider, made a 360-degree spin move, fired on net and … nothing.
That was the story of Point's season. Opportunity after opportunity with nothing to show for it.
Then, not more than four minutes later with the Lightning on a power play, Point skated toward his spot to the left of the goal. His path took him across the crease and into the path of a blistering slap shot from Nikita Kucherov.
The puck hit Point's stick and deflected to the right of Schneider, and that is how the rookie scored his first NHL goal.
"That's how it is," Point said. "I was saying to the guys before, I just needed a lucky one to go in, and I got it (Saturday)."
The goal was the Lightning's third in a 4-1 victory at Amalie Arena that included 37 saves from Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
It also required the obligatory Lightning comeback. Tampa Bay (7-4-1) once again fell behind in the first period, this time when defenseman Damon Severson put a rebound past Bishop.
The Lightning, outplayed by New Jersey during the first 20 minutes, came to life in the second period when it outshot the Devils 21-8 and took the lead on goals by Brian Boyle and Victor Hedman.
That set the stage for Point to give the Lightning an insurance goal and a reason for his teammates to smile.
"It's nice to see," Kucherov said. "He's had so many chances before."
Said Hedman: "He made some unreal plays early in the game, too, the spin-o-rama move. He's had some great looks, and to get one of those, he was in the right area."
Point had scored twice before for the Lightning, but both goals came during shootouts, and those goals do not count toward a player's season totals — not even the winner against the Panthers on Oct. 18.
Lighting coach Jon Cooper said that in the case of Point, the stat sheet is misleading.
"He's made such a positive impact on our team," Cooper said. "You watch him on the ice, and more often than not you walk back into the (locker) room saying he didn't have any points but arguably he was our best player on the ice."
That's fine, but Point is a goal scorer who hadn't scored a goal, and the drought that covered the first 11 games of the season was starting to annoy him.
"I don't know if I was starting to press," he said, "but it does start to wear on you a little bit."
Point was just doing his job on the power play. The puck was passed to Kucherov at the point, and he was heading to the net for a rebound. He got the deflection instead.
"You talk about a kid who deserved a goal, nobody deserved a goal more than him," Cooper said. "Hopefully this opens the floodgates for him. He's been ironclad for us."
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First Period—1, New Jersey, Severson 2 (Zajac, Hall), 14:39. Penalties—Palat, TB, (delay of game), 4:15; Hedman, TB, (tripping), 9:42; Fiddler, NJ, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:42; Hedman, TB, served by Point, (cross checking), 9:42; Zacha, NJ, (high sticking), 16:28.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Boyle 3 (Brown, Hedman), 2:25. 3, Tampa Bay, Hedman 3, 8:27. Penalties—Henrique, NJ, (hooking), 9:39; Cammalleri, NJ, (tripping), 14:16.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Point 1 (Kucherov, Filppula), 5:01 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 4 (Stralman, Stamkos), 14:14. Penalties—Zajac, NJ, (interference), 4:57; Stamkos, TB, (cross checking), 6:00; Johnson, TB, (holding), 14:52. Shots on Goal—New Jersey 12-8-18—38. Tampa Bay 8-21-6—35. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—New Jersey, Schneider 4-3-2 (35 shots-31 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 5-3-0 (38-37).