NEWARK, N.J. – Andy Greene is taking advantage of his increased playing time since Jacques Lemaire took over as coach of the New Jersey Devils.
Greene went from a seldom-used player last season under Brent Sutter to the anchor of an injury-depleted defence for Lemaire.
Greene made the key play Friday night, firing the point shot that Jamie Langenbrunner deflected for the winner with 38.1 seconds left in regulation to give the Devils a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin out with major injuries, Greene has filled the offensive gap on the Devils’ blue-line. The assist gave him 14 points, tops this season among New Jersey defencemen.
“He has got confidence,” Lemaire said. “He’s on top of his game. He started a little slow but he had good moments. Then all of a sudden, he started to be our top defenceman.”
And the one who made the key play to pull out the latest victory.
“I had a lane to the net and just tried to throw it there,” Greene said. “Jamie got a great tip on it. That’s why you play until the final whistle. You keep going to the very end and you have to be ready for anything.”
Langenbrunner wasn’t sure he deserved the goal.
“It was a great play by Greenie,” the Devils captain said. “He did a great job taking the puck from the boards and getting to the middle and finding a lane through. I just went to the net. They said it hit me, although I’m not 100 per cent certain.”
The win was the Devils’ seventh in the last eight games at home, and 10th in a row against the Lightning.
Brian Rolston and Niclas Bergfors had power-play goals for New Jersey while Martin Brodeur made 22 saves.
Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Downie scored for Tampa Bay, which dropped its fourth straight game.
The game seemed headed for overtime when Tampa Bay pulled even at two on a power-play goal by Downie with three minutes remaining in regulation. Downie tucked home a perfectly-timed pass from Steve Stamkos.
Rolston and Bergfors scored power-play goals early in the third period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.
Rolston evened the score at 1:15, the tally coming only three seconds after Lukas Krajicek was whistled for slashing. Rob Niedermayer won the faceoff in the Lightning zone, nudging the puck back to Rolston who fired a shot from above the left circle that caught the upper right corner of the net.
The Lightning quickly picked up two more penalties, and their third infraction of the period proved costly as Bergfors converted at 5:14.
Lightning defenceman David Hale fell down on a clearing attempt with the puck dribbling to Bergfors who slammed a shot home from the slot.
“They were stupid penalties,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. “Sometimes when pressure is on, people do stupid things. We’ve got to straighten out this penalty killing quick.
“Then in the last seconds, we have no tenacity to clear the front of our net. Those are ways to lose, and that’s what happens when you lose three or four in a row.”
Lecavalier got the game’s first goal on a wraparound at 1:26 of the second period. The Tampa Bay captain curled behind the New Jersey net, tucking the puck into the cage just inside Brodeur’s left skate.
For Lecavalier, it was only his sixth goal in 34 games dating back to last season.
There were few chances for either team in the scoreless first period. Tampa Bay had the edge in shots, 7-5, including two good opportunities late in the period.
Alex Tanguay stripped the puck from Devils defenceman Bryce Salvador, setting up Lecavalier in the slot. Salvador scrambled back into position just in time to deflect the shot.
NOTES: The Devils will play at home on consecutive nights. They host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, hoping to have LW Jay Pandolfo (dislocated right shoulder) and D Johnny Oduya (lower body injury) back. …. Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis played in his 335th consecutive game, the sixth-best streak among active players. …. A pair of rookies, Tampa Bay’s James Wright and Devils defenceman Matt Corrente, fought to a draw at 14:02 of the first period. Corrente wasn’t done, picking up another fighting major for a brawl with New Jersey’s Zenon Konopka at 2:48 of the second period. … The third fight of the game came at 12:20 of the second as Ryan Malone and New Jersey’s Mark Fraser squared off. It all began with Malone levelling Patrik Elias with a hard hit along the boards. Elias retaliated with a cross check before Fraser took up the fight.