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

This time the Lightning finish the job.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

TB-3
NJ-1

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory, and that 1 goal was on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The sharpness is there and he made a big handful of situational saves. He's really rounded into form and feels on the verge of going on a patented Vasiy run.

First Period
8:23 NJ Palmieri (1), (Butcher, Hall)(PP)
11:30 TB Miller (1), (Kucherov, Stamkos)
15:02 TB Kucherov (3), (Coburn, Miller)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
18:52 TB Kucherov (4), (Miller)(EN)

Vasilevskiy and J.T. Miller were the game's first and third stars. The spitefulness of the New Jersey media where Kucherov is concerned on full display there.

Despite a First Period hiccup to allow a 5-on-3 power play, the Lightning more or less learned the lessons of Game Three to put together the road win they needed to give them a chance to shorten this series. Tampa Bay managed the puck reasonably well throughout the game and played a simple possession game to outshoot New Jersey 37-28 in the contest. They did have some penalty troubles overall, but both teams were in the box too much and neither really gained a whole lot of advantage from it. My biggest takeaways: the penalty kill for the Lightning has looked a lot better in the postseason as have individual defenders like Brayden Coburn and the team put New Jersey on complete lockdown in the Third Period protecting the one goal lead. It was clinical. Bottom line the win proved what we should all know by now: New Jersey isn't winning without help from the Lightning in the form of stupid turnovers or penalties. They simply can't generate enough offense on their own at 5v5 to defeat the Lightning.

Now, one of the big deflection points in this game was the monstrous hit by Nikita Kucherov in the First Period that knocked Sami Vatanen out of the game. New Jersey going down to five defensemen almost assuredly contributed to their Third Period ineffectiveness as they were chasing the game down one. There's some thought that perhaps Kucherov could see a suspension for the hit. I didn't think he hit him in the head and it'd be a miscarriage of justice. I get you want to legislate head hunting out of the game, but that's not what Kucherov did on that play. Still, I could see the NHL putting their filthy fingers on the scales knowing Vatanen is the one real top flight puck moving defenseman the Devils have and his absence crushes their effectiveness as a team at both 5v5 and on the PP.

Either way the Lightning have a pretty glorious opportunity on Saturday to conclude this series in five games and conserve energy by ending this series early. The playoffs are a marathon and you want gas in the tank at the end. This team understands that lesson well and I expect them to bear down to finish the job and get this series out of the way efficiently.

Anthony Cirelli had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 16:05, but he was also just 29% on 17 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.