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.