Devils 5, Lightning 2

The struggling New Jersey Devils have rediscovered their offense
against an upper-tier Eastern Conference team.

Brian Rolston and Travis Zajac each had a goal and an assist
during a four-goal first-period, Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice, and
the Devils beat the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning
5-2 on Friday night.

I think the guys started to believe that if they work together,
they’ll have a better chance to score than working on their own,”
New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Patrik Elias also scored to help the Devils snap an 11-game road
losing skid. The slide by the team with the NHL’s worst record
(12-29-2) was just one off the franchise record of 12, set from
Oct. 19 to Dec. 1, 1983.

”You could tell because every time we’d take the bus
everybody’s sad or mad or not happy,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
said. ”At least for the time being we’ll be able to talk to each
other on the bus on the way to the airport.”

Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos scored his 32nd goal of the season to
tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. Martin St. Louis
added a goal for the Lightning, 2-12 against New Jersey since the
start of the 2007-08 season.

”When you give Jacques’ team a lead, you’re asking for
trouble,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said.

After Stamkos scored a power-play goal on the Lightning’s first
shot at 5:06 of the first, the Devils scored four straight goals –
Kovalchuk (7:59), Rolston (9:19), Elias (11:44) and Zajac (15:54) –
to take a 4-1 lead after the opening period.

”It’s unacceptable for us to get behind by that much,” Stamkos
said.

Zajac’s short-handed effort gave New Jersey its 80th goal this
season, with nine coming in two periods against Tampa Bay. The
Devils scored five times during the third period in their previous
game Sunday, a 6-3 win over the Lightning.

”I think for the most part we frustrated them,” Zajac said.
”We have to continue to play like that if we want to win
games.”

New Jersey has won consecutive games just two times this
season.

St. Louis cut the deficit to 4-2 when he lifted a backhander
over Brodeur during a breakaway with 5:05 left in the second.

Stamkos assisted on St. Louis’ goal for his 200th NHL point,
coming in his 206th game.

Kovalchuk extended the New Jersey advantage to 5-2 at 13:40 of
the third.

Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson, bidding for his 200th NHL
victory, was pulled with 4 minutes left in the first after allowing
four goals on nine shots.

Brodeur made 30 saves and improved to 33-15-7 in 57 games
against the Lightning. The 38-year old, 7-18-1 this season, has an
NHL-best 609 wins overall.

”He’s had a rough go and he’s taken a lot of heat, and he was
awesome for us tonight,” Rolston said.

NOTES: Stamkos, playing with an undisclosed minor injury,
stopped a personal six-game goal drought. The center has seven
goals in 10 games against New Jersey. … Lemaire won his 250th
game as New Jersey coach. … Devils D Anton Volchenkov missed his
second straight game following the death of his father. … Tampa
Bay has allowed eight short-handed goals this season. … The
Devils have held the lead after two periods just nine times this
season (8-0-1). … Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier has gone eight
straight games without scoring a goal. He had an assist, but wound
up minus-3 in the game.