TAMPA, Fla. – Jon Cooper felt as if time stood still during the final seconds of regulation in his NHL coaching debut.
Alex Killorn scored with 15.1 seconds left in the third period and Tampa Bay won 5-4 in a shootout over the New Jersey Devils to give Cooper his first victory on Friday night.
“How about that?” a smiling Cooper said. “The wave of emotions I had from when there’s 17 seconds left to 15 seconds left was unbelieveable. It’s almost like it happened in slow motion. It was awesome.”
The Lightning pulled even at 4 when Killorn scored from the right circle. Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman scored for Tampa Bay in the shootout.
Cooper was hired as the eighth coach in Lightning history Monday, one day after the team announced the firing of Guy Boucher. Cooper had been coaching Syracuse of the AHL, Tampa Bay’s top minor league team.
“A huge win, especially for Coop, a new coach coming in,” said Killorn, who played for Cooper in the minors. “I think it just shows the confidence a lot of guys have in him. The swagger he has, we kind of all rallied behind him.”
Steven Stamkos scored his 24th and 25th goals this season and added an assist on Killorn’s goal. Nate Thompson had the other Tampa Bay goal.
“Made it exciting,” Stamkos said.
The Devils got goals from Andrei Loktionov, Tom Kostopoulos, Andy Greene and Ryan Carter. Martin Brodeur made 21 saves.
“It’s disappointing when you’re 15 seconds away from getting two (points), but at the same time we’ve got to put points in the bank and keep moving forward,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
New Jersey is 2-6 in shootouts, including 0-3 with Brodeur in goal.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brodeur said. “I haven’t practiced at all. I’ve got to bring myself to get out there and practice it more. I haven’t been playing much and we don’t practice a lot, but it’s something we have to start doing. These are tons of great points we’re laying out on the table. We have too much talent to let go of these kind of points.”
After blowing a two-goal lead, Greene’s power-play goal put the Devils up 3-2 with 6:02 left in the second. Carter’s short-handed goal made it 4-2 at 2:39 of the third.
Stamkos cut the Lightning deficit to 4-3 on his second goal of the game at 7:11 of the third.
The Devils took a 2-0 lead in the second when Loktionov (5:50) and Kostopoulos (6:41) scored 51 seconds apart. Kostopoulos stopped a personal 30-game goal drought, dating back to Feb. 25, 2012, against Philadelphia—when he beat Mathieu Garon on a penalty shot.
“I know Matty Garon pretty well, so I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Kostopoulos said. “The puck kind of hopped on me, so I was getting a little nervous. I just wanted to try and get above his pad and below his blocker.”
Garon stopped 21 shots.
The Lightning tied it at 2 midway through the second on goals by Stamkos (8 minutes) and Thompson (10:26).
Stamkos scored when he swatted a waist-high rebound into the net after Brodeur made a strong save on the Lightning centre. Thompson’s goal came after he got through two New Jersey defenders and had a rebound of his own shot go off his leg and past Brodeur.
Brodeur late in the second got a piece of Cory Conacher’s point-blank shot that also hit the post.
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 2-17-1 when tied or trailing after the first period. … The Devils are 12-1-3 when scoring the game’s first goal. … New Jersey activated LW Alexei Ponikarovsky (lower body) from injured reserved. He sat out three games. … Devils D Bryce Salvador (lower body) and C Stephen Gionta (upper body), who were both hurt in Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa, played. … Lightning D Andrej Sustr made his NHL debut. … The Devils’ top minor league team, Albany of the AHL, signed LW Reid Boucher and D Jon Merrill to amateur tryout agreements.