New Jersey came out aggressive in the first period and created some high quality chances, finally capitalizing with Kyle Palmieri scoring on a five-on-three powerplay. Tampa responded with a shortside goal by JT Miller, created by a quick zone entry and touch passing. The Bolts seemed to take a lead on a Conacher goal that beat Schneider bar down, but the goal was deemed to be offsides. Shortly after, however, Kucherov beat Severson to a bouncing puck in the slot and buried it top shelf, giving Tampa the 2-1 lead after the first.
Tampa ultimately clamped things down defensively and were stronger on the puck, controlling the game during both the second and third period. The Devils appeared to get a bit too focused on the chippy play and allowed themselves to be taken out of the game mentally. Kucherov would bury an empty netter to close a 3-1 victory, moving the Devils one loss away from being eliminated and now headed back to Tampa.
Schneider once again looked strong, posting a .944 save percentage in both games three and four. He just didn’t get the goal support last night.
Taylor Hall looked off for the first time in a very long time. After taking a penalty just 34 seconds in, Hall never seemed to recover. The Lightning did a great job getting strong matchups against Taylor defensively as he managed just one shot on goal and two giveaways in 20:17 TOI. Hall did have an assist on the Palmieri goal, but he looked visibly frustrated most of the night.
The specials teams play has been what is killing New Jersey. Going 1-6 with your only goal coming on a five on three simply isn’t good enough, and a vast majority of their other attempts didn’t generate any true scoring opportunities. The Devils seemed hesitant to shoot the puck, especially from the point, and were trying to get the perfect play. Credit the Lightning for taking away shooting lanes, but with the man advantage you need to get pucks and bodies to the net with more desperation. On the bright side, the penalty kill seems to have figured things out, successfully killing all five chances Tampa received.
If Sami Vatanen misses any games, the Devils are in big trouble. Following a check from Kucherov, Vatanen left the game and did not return. As of now Sami is listed as day to day with an upper body injury, but the second half of the game his presence was missed in a big way. Breakouts didn’t seem as smooth, and relying solely on butcher to man the powerplay didn’t generate any type of offense.