NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-12-18 Devils at Lightning

Lightning show off maturity, quality, and professionalism in Game One win.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

NJ-2
TB-5

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. This wasn't the sharpest Vasilevskiy we've seen because he did seem to struggle a little at times with his rebound control, but he made the situational saves he needed to make and maintained focus despite some long stretches of inactivity in the game. Good performance with room to improve.

First Period
15:00 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, McDonagh)
19:31 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Point)

Second Period
1:54 TB Gourde (1), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
13:55 NJ Hall (1), (unassisted)

Third Period
9:35 NJ Zajac (1), (Hall, Butcher)(PP)
12:14 TB Killorn (1), (Gourde)
18:48 TB Kucherov (1), (unassisted)(EN)

Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Wow. I'm pretty amazed at what we witnessed tonight. For 82 games the Lightning never really played a disciplined, professional, poised, mature 60 minute game. Tonight, this team just threw the switch from the opening drop tonight and played a nearly flawless, simple, highly mature game. It wasn't without blemishes, such as the Palat turnover on Hall goal that allowed the Devils back into the game, but that was incredible. We saw the high percentage, good habits all over the rink and an intense effort by the Lightning that saw them win an incredibly high percentage of 50/50 pucks.

I'd even say the mistake Palat let the Devils back into the game with a turnover might be a silver lining, because I think the fact the Lightning never really got into garbage time cruise mode should help stave off complacency and bad habits. That's important, because as nice as tonight's win is, if the Lightning come out flat and drop Game Two the Devils will have accomplished what they came to Tampa to do in the first couple of matchups in this series.

I'd say the one big key takeaway from the night is that the Lightning's depth really appeared to give them a tremendous advantage against New Jersey. Both teams were pretty successful in nullifying the other's top lines, so the game really came down to the fact the Lightning have three pretty decent scoring lines and the checking line was also solid tonight, whereas New Jersey didn't really have a lot depth-wise that looked threatening. So long as the Lightning manage the puck well and don't give away unearned scoring chances, that depth advantage should carry them to a series win.

Anthony Cirelli was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:20. He was also 56% on 9 draws. Cirelli continued to play like a young man with an old soul in this game and impressed in one encounter in the corner against ex-Lightning forward Brian Boyle where he used body position and guile to stay strong on the puck despite a significant size disadvantage. You get the feeling that with a summer of intense training to get his body even more NHL ready that Cirelli could become a quiet beast.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.