TAMPA, Fla. — The shutdown line for the Tampa Bay Lightning outscored New Jersey’s top scoring line in Game 1 of the opening-round series between the teams.
That’s a trend the Lightning look to continue heading into Saturday afternoon as the teams meet in Game 2 at Amalie Arena.
In Tampa Bay’s 5-2 victory over New Jersey in the first game of the series, the Lightning held MVP candidate Taylor Hall to one point at even strength, and that was a gift-wrapped goal in the second period. Hall, along with linemates Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, was kept in check with five shots on goal combined between the three, four of which came from Hall.
“I think we were a little hesitant making the plays through the neutral zone, and we weren’t moving our feet as much as we need to,” Palmieri said. “In the second, we showed how effective we are when we’re playing fast and getting pucks up and in and competing on pucks in the offensive zone. That’s what brought a lot of scoring chances and a lot of momentum, so it’s something we have to focus on next game.”
That top line of New Jersey’s saw a lot of Tampa Bay’s trio of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson during the first game, with just over 12 minutes of head-to-head play at even strength during the game.
But the Lightning’s second line is not just a shutdown line, it’s Tampa Bay’s second offensive line. That proved a pivotal point in the first game as the Lightning built a two-goal lead heading in the second period with goals from Palat and Johnson, the later coming with 29 seconds left in the period. Both goals came while Hall’s line was on the ice.
“As a coach and a team you are trying to put the players out there against the guys you think they can have success,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “It was big for us that they scored twice. “Clearly when you watch Taylor Hall play, he’s a dangerous player, we can’t sleep on Hischier and Palmieri either, they are a good line together. That was a big confidence builder for our guys to get two … as a whole I felt they did a really good job against them.”
Palat did put a pass right on to the stick of Hall in the second period for New Jersey’s first goal, but it was an otherwise quiet night.
“I saw they tried to put this line out when our line was there … It’s playoff hockey I guess,” said Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. “It’s part of it to match the lines, and as a player it shouldn’t bother you. You have to keep going and play the same way. When you get frustrated that’s when they win so you have to keep going.”
It’s the type of advantage the top seeded Lightning hold when it comes to overall depth that Tampa Bay’s top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller had a quiet night, but the Lightning were able to build a three-goal lead and closing things out.
“We have four well-balanced lines that have had some chemistry during the regular season and it’s carried over here to the first game,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We have to keep that going.”