Blinded By The Light: Bolts Finish Off Devils In Blackout Game

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIJanuary 11, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 08:  Mike Smith #41 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save against Jamie Langenbrunner #15 of the New Jersey Devils during their game on January 8, 2010 at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

For the beloved Bolts, this was a game they had to have.

Against the Eastern Conference's best team—a team that had beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning 10 straight times—the Lightning had to wait two days and a loss in Philadelphia before finally tasting victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Picking up where they left off after a lightning issue forced a suspension of the game on Friday night, Steven Stamkos found his scoring touch, lighting the lamp twice for Tampa Bay while Mike Smith turned away a gun range worth of shots to secure the 4-2 win.

The win also continued the Lightning's trend of two steps forward, two steps back, alternating victories and losses.

It's maddening for a team that desperately wants to get on a role before the Olympic break.

"A huge game for us," defenseman Matt Walker said. "At the end of the day, we beat a really good team and got two massive points."

The Lightning find themselves in 12th place in the jumbled mess that is the Eastern Conference, four points behind Montreal who hold the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lightning, however, have three games in hand on the Canadiens.

"Games in hand doesn't mean anything if you don't win them," Coach Rick Tocchet said after the loss in Philadelphia.

Tampa Bay comes home for a Tuesday night tilt against the Southeast division-leading Washington Capitals before launching into a home-and-home against the hated Florida Panthers.

It's been tough for the Lightning to gain ground as the Habs have matched Tampa Bay's 6-3-1 run in their last ten games. Even more, Philadelphia bettered the Lightning's last ten, with a 7-2-1 run to pass the Bolts by.

At some point the Lightning, who haven't won more than two games in a row at any point this season, need to reel off a long win streak to really get themselves into the middle of the playoff chase.

Meandering around the .500 mark may keep the Lightning in the chase but teams that cannot make the next step typically fall by the wayside.

"We're getting into a stretch where teams are pushing for the playoffs," Tocchet said. "People are elevating their games. People are getting tenacious."

Are the Lightning elevating their game?

"We'll take it (two points for a victory) any way we can get it right now." Stamkos said.