The New Jersey Devils uncharacteristically lit the lamp seven times last night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 7-3 score.
Leading the way for the Devils was Dainius Zubrus, who scored a career-high four goals.
The scoring started in the first period at just the 1:44 mark, when Mike Rupp deflected an Anssi Salmela shot through the legs of Lightning goalie Olaf Kolzig. The shot appeared to have been going well wide, but the beautiful redirection by Rupp, which was his first goal of the season, gave the Devils the 1-0 lead.
Zach Parise later followed up with a goal. After he hopped off the bench in favor of Scott Clemmensen because of a delayed penalty, he took a feed from Jay Leach near the left point, and blasted one past Kolzig to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. For Leach, it was the first NHL point of his journeyman career.
The scoring and momentum didn't change much at the start of the second period, when Zubrus scored two quick goals just 2:36 apart. The first was on a shot off the left wing that somehow got through the arm of Kolzig. Zubrus later followed with a rebound goal, knocking the puck and Kolzig's legs into the net, giving the Devils a 4-0 lead.
Brian Gionta would add a goal off a wild scramble in front of the Tampa Bay net to give the Devils a 5-0 lead, and chase Kolzig from the game. The game seemed well in hand at that point, but Tampa Bay caught fire near the end of the second, capitalizing on some sloppy Devils play, and scored three goals in a span of just 3:34.
The three goals were highlighted by a beautiful shot by Ryan Malone on a penalty shot. After being pulled down by Jay Pandolfo, Malone was awarded a penalty shot, and took advantage of the opportunity. He put one over the left shoulder of goalie Scott Clemmensen into the top shelf of the goal, and cut the Devils lead to 5-3. It also seemed to energize the small crowd, adding some life to the building heading into the third period.
Dainius Zubrus silenced the crowd and gave the Devils their eventual margin of victory by scoring two more goals in the third period. The big one was a breakaway set up by Patrik Elias (who had three assists on the night), in which Zubrus made a nice move to his backhand to put it in the net. Scott Clemmensen also added some timely saves at the beginning of the period to help the Devils prevail with the 7-3 victory.
There were many heroes to go around, some of the guys that stood out were:
- Dainius Zubrus - Anytime you score 4 goals, it should stand out. Zubrus also played a strong game at both sides of the ice.
- Patrik Elias - Another great two-way game from Elias. He seems to be the straw that stirs the drink—when he plays well, the Devils follow.
- Anssi Salmela - You can see this kid gaining more and more confidence each game. Nice to see him put up two assists on the night.
- Scott Clemmensen - It doesn't always look pretty, but three-straight victories for Clemmer.
- Zach Parise - The accolades never get old for Parise, the shining star of the team, who netted his 13th goal.
- Brian Gionta - A resurgence from the little guy, posting a goal in the fourth straight game. His offense is something the Devils have been starving for all year.
- Mike Rupp - Continuing to fill the role of the injured John Madden, Rupp played another solid game, and scored his first goal of the year.
All in all, a great game for the Devils, as they won their fourth straight. Let's hope their little layoff here doesn't set them back at all.
Next, it's on to Florida, to take on the Panthers!