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Saturday, Jul 21, 2018
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Tom Jones’ Two Cents: Devil in the details, Lightning

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 3 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:

The Lightning got what it deserved Monday night in a 5-2 loss at New Jersey. Take dumb penalties at bad times and you lose games. The Lightning took two really dumb penalties and it cost it a chance to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.

Now it's in a dog fight.

The Lightning had a 2-1 lead early in the third period when forward Cedric Paquette took a tripping penalty 200 feet from his own net. That can't happen. Ever. But especially in a one-goal game in the third period of a crucial playoff game. The Lightning then compounded the problem by taking a too many men on the ice penalty, giving the Devils a 5-on-3 power play.

The Devils tied the score. They added the winner later in the period, then a couple of empty-netters, but it was the tying goal that will keep the Lightning shaking its head until Game 4 on Wednesday. You're looking for how Game 3 got away? That was it.

Of course, Game 3 was way more important to the Devils than it was the Lightning. After all, being down 3-0 is way worse than being up 2-1, right?

But having said that, this is a game that will haunt the Lightning until the Lightning wins the series – IF it wins the series. When you play really well and let a game in which you led in the third period get away from you, it's a tough loss to swallow.

Be smart

The heat of this series was turned up after a collision between Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and New Jersey's Blake Coleman in the third period. Sergachev was given a penalty for elbowing, but it was a bad call. Sergachev's elbow was an accident. Then things got especially nasty in the final minutes as everyone tried to "send a message'' — my least favorite hockey phrase because it's so silly.

Anyway, a street fight is exactly what the Devils are looking for. The Lightning is a better hockey team — more skilled, more talented, better. It needs to stick to hockey. It if gets into nonsense and revenge, it'll be playing right into New Jersey's hands.

No need to panic

One of the most difficult things to do in hockey is sweep another team in the playoffs. And the Devils are a good team. They had 97 points in the regular season. That's really good.

So there's no reason that Tampa Bay is going to panic over the Game 3 loss. I still think the Lightning is going to win the series in five. But the Devils did a lot of good things Monday night and their coach, John Hynes, looks like a genius for switching goalies from Keith Kinkaid to Cory Schneider.

… And here's some thoughts I had during the game:

Most important period

Obviously, the third period is way more critical to the Devils than it is the Lightning. After all, if the Devils lose this game, they're down 3 games to none and are pretty much toast. If the Lightning loses, it still leads the series 2-1.

But having said that, this is a big period for the Lightning. It's hard to win playoff games and the Lightning has played well enough to win. Anytime you play this well and don't get a win, it's a bit of a gut punch.

Hall of a player

From the Files of Captain Obvious: New Jersey's Taylor Hall is a fantastic hockey player. His goal to tie the game was a blazer. Fun to watch him play a bunch of games in a row during the postseason as opposed to seeing him here and there in the regular season.

Unsung scorer

Seems like every team that wins a Stanley Cup — or at least makes a deep run — gets contributions from an unexpected source.

For example, back in the 2004 Cup season, the Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko scored 12 goals in the playoffs, including both goals in the 2-1 Cup-clinching victory against Calgary. This after scoring just 19 goals in the regular season. In 2011, Sean Bergenheim helped the Lightning reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final with nine goals in 16 games. He had 14 in 80 games in the regular season.

This season's early candidate for the Lightning is Alex Killorn. He scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in Game 3. He had 15 in the regular season.

The thing is, it feels like Killorn should be a more prolific goal-scorer. He has never scored 20 in a season, but he sometimes looks like he can be a 30-goal guy.

The Lightning couldn't care less about regular-season totals now. But it certainly would love to see Killorn keep his hot streak going in the postseason.

 Solid first

Good first period for the Lightning. You go into a hostile building against a fired-up team playing its first home playoff game of the postseason, and all you hope to do is survive.

That's what the Lightning did. It survived. It escaped with a 0-0 tie. Any road team will take that in playoffs, especially a Lightning  team that played pretty well in that period.

 Best broadcasters

It's always cool when your team is on national television, just as the  Lightning was last Saturday when Game 2 was televised nationally on NBC. NBC does an outstanding job, and Game 2 had one of the better game analysts in the business in Joe Micheletti.

But how nice is it for Lightning fans to have Fox Sports Florida broadcasting the game, especially because it gets to listen to announcers Rick Peckham and Brian Engblom? Hard to find two better local announcers in the NHL.

Monday schedule and results (All times Eastern)

Toronto 4, Boston 2 (Boston leads, 2-1)

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 2 (Tampa Bay leads, 2-1)

Nashville at Colorado, 10 p.m., NBC Sports (Nashville leads, 2-0)

Anaheim at San Jose, 10:30 p.m, CNBC (San Jose leads, 2-0)

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