Ondrej Palat recorded a goal and two assists as the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Thursday.
Game 2 is Saturday afternoon in Tampa Bay.
Palat notched his second career postseason game with three points and first since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers in 2015.
He scored Tampa Bay’s first goal and then recorded the primary assist on tallies by Tyler Johnson and rookie Yanni Gourde. Alex Killorn scored the fourth goal and Nikita Kucherov added an empty-net goal.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves. He made five saves during a New Jersey power play midway through the second period.
New Jersey’s Taylor Hall scored in his postseason debut. He also set up Travis Zajac’s power-play goal midway through the third cut Tampa’s lead to 3-2.
Keith Kinkaid made 27 saves for New Jersey. He became the first goaltender besides Martin Brodeur to start a playoff game for New Jersey since Chris Terreri won Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Bruins.
The Devils appeared in their first postseason game since dropping Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the first period when Johnson made a pass from behind the net near the right corner to Palat. Palat made a move around two defenders in the low slot and lifted a backhander under Kinkaid’s stick.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead with 28.5 seconds left in the first period. Mirco Mueller committed a turnover behind the net to Brayden Point, who quickly passed to Palat. Palat then whipped a pass to a wide-open Johnson, who easily moved through the slot untouched and lifted a wrist shot over Kinkaid.
Tampa Bay went on its first power play five seconds into the second period and scored with 11 seconds remaining on the man advantage. After the Lightning retained possession, Palat made a backhand pass to Gourde, who converted the tap-in into the vacated right side of the net 1:54 into the second.
New Jersey scored when Hall capitalized on a turnover by Palat, whose errant clearing attempt wound up on Hall’s stick. Once Hall intercepted the pass intended for Johnson, he simply lifted a wrist shot from the low slot over Vasilevskiy with 6:05 left in the second.
The Devils made it a one-goal game with 10:25 remaining thanks to some nifty tic-tac-toe passing. Patrick Maroon kept it alive behind the net and three passes later, Zajac deflected Hall’s pass into the left side of the net.
Nearly three minutes later, Tampa Bay capitalized on a giveaway by Maroon, and Killorn finished off a 2-on-1 by lifting a shot into the left corner of the net.
—Field Level Media