TAMPA — Playing without captain and leading scorer Steven Stamkos for the first time in two years, the Lightning finally got a goal from its power play to break a third-period tie Saturday night on the way to a crucial 3-1 victory over the Devils in Tampa Bay's regular-season home finale at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning power play was 0-for-6 until another chance with 9:33 remaining, and Brian Boyle redirected a shot from Nikita Nesterov in front of the goal, then backhanded a rebound in for the lead as he fell to his knees with 8:28 left.
Nikita Kucherov added an empty-net goal — his 30th of the season — with 33 seconds left to seal the win.
"Third period tonight, we came out possessed to win a hockey game," said coach Jon Cooper, whose team had the first 11 shots of the period after giving up a tying goal with 27 seconds left in the second.
The Lightning (45-28-5) is four points ahead of Detroit for second place in the Atlantic Division with four games to play. Tampa Bay, two points back of Florida for the division lead, plays its remaining four games on the road.
"It was paramount we had to win tonight," Cooper said. "There's still pressure on us to go win on the road, but it's a little less pressure than we had two and a half hours ago."
G Ben Bishop had 25 saves, with a defense that helped contain six Devils power plays and only allow one goal, from Adam Henrique in the final minute of the second. Tampa Bay had jumped ahead in the second on D Victor Hedman's ninth goal of the season.
Stralman update: D Anton Stralman knew it was bad right away when his left leg crumpled underneath him in a battle in front of the net against the Islanders on March 25.
"Was quite a bit of pain there," he said.
Stralman fractured his left fibula and is out through at least the first round of the playoffs. But Stralman, using crutches and wearing a boot Saturday, said he's staying positive and hoping to play sometime in the postseason.
"I think it could have been a lot worse," he said. "And now at least I have a chance (to play in the playoffs), and that's the way I'm trying to look at it. I'm thinking I'll work as much as I can, do all the right things and hope the guys will take care of the business on the ice to give me a chance to get back."
Stralman didn't have a problem with how the injury happened, on a "normal battle" with Islanders center Anders Lee in front of the net on a penalty kill. "It's more unfortunate my toe gets stuck more than anything," he said. "If I just land on my (rear end), it would have been a nothing play."
Nuts and bolts: Two days after Cooper said LW Ondrej Palat and C Tyler Johnson had "upped their game" since RW Jonathan Marchessault joined their line, Marchessault was a healthy scratch. … D Slater Koekkoek was also scratched. … Former Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, now the NFL's chief operating office, was the game's "Community Hero."
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First Period—None. Penalties—Kennedy, NJ (high-sticking), 14:17; Carle, TB (interference), 17:34; Blandisi, NJ (interference), 18:07.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Hedman 9 (Palat, Kucherov), 9:03. 2, New Jersey, Henrique 28 (Kennedy, Severson), 19:32 (pp). Penalties—Coburn, TB (holding), 2:01; Garrison, TB (holding), 4:09; Blandisi, NJ (hooking), 10:07; Sustr, TB (holding), 12:53; Smith-Pelly, NJ (roughing), 14:44; Boyle, TB (roughing), 14:44; Larsson, NJ (interference), 15:08; Coburn, TB (holding), 18:15.
Third Period—3, Tampa Bay, Boyle 12 (Nesterov, Kucherov), 11:32 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 30 (Hedman, Paquette), 19:27 (en). Penalties—Schlemko, NJ (hooking), 3:51; Kalinin, NJ (tripping), 6:47; New Jersey bench, served by Kennedy (too many men), 10:27; Carle, TB (holding stick), 13:42. Shots on Goal—New Jersey 9-12-5—26. Tampa Bay 10-9-17—36. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 1 of 6; Tampa Bay 1 of 7. Goalies—New Jersey, Schneider 26-24-6 (35 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 34-20-4 (26-25). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:35. Referees—Dave Jackson, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Darren Gibbs, Steve Miller.