NEWARK, N.J. – All the Tampa Bay Lightning needed to end a 10-game losing streak against the New Jersey Devils was three days, a lighting problem, a two-hour game delay, a sidetrip to Philadelphia and half a game Sunday.
The great goaltending by Mike Smith and the two goals by Steven Stamkos didn’t hurt, either.
Smith made 33 saves and Stamkos scored once Friday and once Sunday as the Lightning finished off the Devils 4-2 in the completion of a game that was suspended two nights earlier because a lighting problem created a safety issue for the players.
“It was a little weird,” Stamkos said. “We prepared twice for this game. It was a half-game and a half-game. The travel wasn’t bad. We were in Philly, so it was only a bus ride away. It was something a lot of guys haven’t experienced in a while. It felt like we were back in junior, but it was worth it.”
Tampa Bay led 3-0 when play was suspended Friday night with 9:12 left in the second period and it only had to kill off the final 29:12 on Sunday to beat New Jersey for the first time since the start of the 2007-08 season.
Smith actually had experience playing in a suspended game. He was the goaltender for Sudbury when its OHL playoff game against Toronto-St. Michael’s was suspended because of a lighting problem.
“We were up 3-1 in the series before the lights went out and we ended up playing the game the next day and lost in overtime, and ended up losing the series,” Smith said. “It was a little better outcome this time.”
Steve Downie and Brandon Bochenski also scored for Tampa Bay in the game in which the players agreed not to protest playing three days in a row. The Devils played in Montreal and the Lightning were in Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Travis Zajac and Zach Parise scored for New Jersey.
It was strange though, starting with the crowd. About 3,000 of the announced crowd of 15,129 returned to watch the game, with the number including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
“I thought they were alive,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said of the fans. “I thought they were good.”
The Devils gave the crowd something to cheer about when Zajac scored with 8:36 left on New Jersey’s 33rd shot of the game.
The encouraging cries of support were silenced less than a minute later when Martin St. Louis found Stamkos all alone in front for blast that zipped past Yann Danis, who replaced Martin Brodeur for the final 1½ periods.
“That was a great play by Marty,” Stamkos said. “He is an elite player. He beat his man to the puck, picked his pocket and gave it to me.”
Parise added his 20th of the season in the final minute.
The Devils said the lighting problem was caused when a circuit breaker went down and it knocked out the computer that operated the lights in the Devils’ defensive zone.
Play was delayed almost two hours while workmen at the three-year-old arena tried to fix the problem. The NHL eventually ordered the game suspended around 10 p.m. and the next day ordered the game to resume Sunday at 6 p.m.
Before play started with a faceoff in front of the Lightning bench, Arlette sang the national anthem. She also sang it Friday night.
“Everything about this situation was odd, from Friday sitting around here waiting to see what would happen, to playing a game when you’re worried about something the night before,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “Under the circumstances, we handled it well. We played well all weekend. Now we move forward.”
Zajac said the final 9:12 of the second period went quickly. The final 29:12 only took 67 minutes to play.
“It’s a little weird when you start a faceoff in the neutral zone and then you feel like you’re getting going and the period is over,” Zajac said. “I think going into it we felt we had a chance to come back and make it interesting. We skated well, made some plays, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
The Devils, who were coming off a 2-1 overtime win in Montreal, had a 35-14 shot advantage in the game, but Smith was spectacular. He stopped 20 shots on Friday and he was just as good Sunday.
“I felt a little more tired today,” said Smith, who did not play in the Lightning’s 4-1 loss in Philadelphia on Saturday night. “I ended up making some saves early and coming out with the win. It was two points we needed.”
The Lightning only had seven shots in the opening 30 minutes but three got behind Brodeur, with the first two goals coming on the power play.
Downie deflected a point shot by Kurtis Foster past Brodeur at 6:58 of the opening period, and Tampa Bay got its other two goals in the second period before the lights dimmed and both were a little lucky.
Bochenski, who was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL on Jan. 2, scored on a quick shot from right in front after Rob Niedermayer deflected Stamkos’ pass right to him at 5:13 on another power play.
Stamkos scored a little less than five minutes later. Stamkos pushed a pass to St. Louis and then took a return pass for a shot into a wide-open net.
NOTES: Referees Steve Kozari and Tim Peel returned for the final 29 minutes, but linesmen David Brisebois and Don Henderson were replaced by Derek Nanson and Jean Moran. … The Lightning made two lineup changes on defence with Andrej Meszaros and David Hale replacing Mattias Ohlund and Matt Smaby. … The Devils did not made any lineup changes. … The Devils allowed anyone in the crowd to sit in the lower section of the arena once the third period started.