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|With the New Jersey Devils‘ first playoff appearance since 2012 starting to look like an early exit Jordan Akins Jersey , Taylor Hall came up big – just like he has done all season. Hall had a goal and two assists, setting up Stefan Noesen’s game-winner with 7:05 play, and Cory Schneider made 34 saves in shoring up the goaltending and leading the Devils to a 5-2 victory over the penalty-prone Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night in Game 3 of their best-of-7 first-round series.
The Devils scored four third-period goals in cutting Tampa Bay’s series lead to 2-1. Game 4 will also be played at the Prudential Center on Wednesday.
Hall, appearing in the playoffs for the first time since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, downplayed his role.
”It’s not my first playoff win, it’s ours as a group,” said Hall, who had a career year in goals, assists and points. ”We had some confidence coming back on home ice with how we played to finish the regular season. It’s a great feeling. We’re still down 2-1. We still have a lot of room to go but it’s a nice start.”
The Devils had a lot of contributors.
Rookie Will Butcher had a power-play goal earlier in the third to tie the score 2-all. Blake Coleman and Ben Lovejoy added empty net goals late. Schneider only gave up two power-play goals in taking over for Keith Kinkaid and giving the Devils a chance in this series.
”It’s huge. You could see there at the end it getting a little nasty similar to the last game,” Schneider said of the win. ”We’ve got the emotional involvement now. We’re on each other’s nerves. It’s going to a series.”
Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos each had a power-play goal and an assist for the Lightning, who allowed the Devils to go on seven power plays. Nikita Kucherov added two assists, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves in the game that had a major scrum with 23 seconds to go.
”At the end of the day you give them that many power play chances and then you give them a 5-on-3, it’s a good chance they are eventually going to get one,” Stamkos said. ”They got one and then they got momentum.”
Hall was the Devils’ MVP during their stunning run from the worst team in the Eastern Conference to the postseason in a year, and he didn’t disappoint in their biggest game of the season.
Hall skated down the right boards, avoided a check by Tyler Johnson in center ice and found Noesen in the left circle with a cross-ice pass that the forward one-timed past Vasilevskiy.
”He’s a good player and good players are going to make plays,” Lightning center Brayden Point said. ”He had a good night tonight. He is a guy we have to watch Brian Urlacher Jersey , know when he is out there and take away his space.”
Butcher had tied it at 4:03 of the period, just 24 seconds after the Lightning were penalized for having too many men on the ice during a penalty kill.
”We were our own worst nightmare tonight,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning, who scored on 3 of 4 power plays in the first two games, converted on two more in Game 3.
Stamkos gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead just 38 seconds into the third with a shot from the left circle that squeezed between Schneider’s arm and body and dribbled into the net. It was his first goal of the series.
Tampa Bay, which never trailed in winning the first two games, took the lead again 42 seconds into the second period on Killorn’s third power-play goal of the series and fourth overall. Kucherov sent a pass from behind the goal line that Killorn redirected into the net before Schneider could move.
Hall tied the game 1-all with an unassisted goal at 12:24. Vasilevskiy made an excellent stop on a shot from near the blue line by Kyle Palmieri. The puck was misplayed by the Lightning and went to Hall between the circles and he ripped a shot past Vasilevskiy.
Hall could have had more. He hit the crossbar on a first-period breakaway.
NOTES: Center J.T. Miller of the Lightning had to leave the ice late in the second period after sustaining a facial cut. He returned for the third period. … Devils captain Andy Greene had assists on goals by Noesen and Lovejoy. … Killorn and Johnson each skated in their 50th career playoff game. … C Cory Conacher replaced the injured Ryan Callahan (upper body) in the Lightning lineup. … Devils F Michael Grabner, who was acquired from the Rangers in February, was a healthy scratch after playing in the first two games. Mirco Mueller also sat as New Jersey dressed six defensemen instead of seven used in Game 2.
When John Tavares‘ contract ran out with the New York Islanders, he took the opportunity to talk with other teams.
”I felt like I owed it to myself to see what else was out there,” Tavares said.
Tavares’ exploration led him to rediscover his childhood affinity for the Maple Leafs, and his confidence in Toronto’s future led him to sign a monster $77 million, seven-year contract. The Islanders were left with nothing, a mistake other NHL franchises seem determined not to make.
Don’t wait. Sometimes not even a day.
On Sunday, when Tavares’ departure left a void on Long Island, the Sharks signed Logan Couture, Coyotes signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson Vontae Davis Jersey , Kings signed Drew Doughty and Lightning signed Ryan McDonagh to long-term deals. None of them would have been free agents until July 1, 2019, and this was the first possible chance to ink extensions that begin more than a year from now.
It’s worth every penny to San Jose, Arizona, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay to get those contracts done now rather than risk a key player even exploring unrestricted free agency like Tavares did.
”If you wait too long and you get into the situation where they have the potential to walk or explore the UFA market, that can be challenging times,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said.
The Ottawa Senators are trapped in such challenging times. They made a contract offer to Norris Trophy-winning captain and 2019 free agent Erik Karlsson, but it’s not a great sign that the real negotiating is only just beginning.
”We’re not going there,” GM Pierre Dorion said. ”We don’t really want to talk about roster players, contract negotiations, trades, all these things, but I think we owe it to our fans and we made a promise at the town hall that we would make a contract offer to Erik Karlsson and we’ve done so.”
Tick, tick, tick. Even a year away, the pressure is on the Senators to sign Karlsson long term or trade him before the deadline so they don’t end up like the Islanders.
The Coyotes made sure they wouldn’t be in that spot by locking up Ekman-Larsson to a $66 million, eight-year deal that the soon-to-be 27-year-old defenseman called ”a no-brainer.” Arizona GM John Chayka calls it ”a huge moment for our entire organization” because there’s now no fear of losing Ekman-Larsson for nothing.
”A superstar-caliber player has the option to basically go to any of the 31 teams and felt the loyalty Ricky Wagner Jersey , felt the belief in what we were doing enough to sign on long term,” Chayka said, adding that the Coyotes had to convince Ekman-Larsson with actions that they were moving in the right direction.
The Kings convinced Doughty of that so much, he knew all season he was going to re-sign. He’s building a new house in the LA area, is getting married this summer and is ready to start a family in a place he wants to stay for essentially the balance of his career.
”I never wanted to leave there, to be honest,” Doughty said. ”It will be nice not to answer the question, `Hey are you coming to Toronto? You’re coming to the Leafs, right?’ No, I’m not coming to the Leafs, everyone.”
Doughty signing for $88 million over eight years sets the bar for Karlsson, who could face similar questions if he goes into the season without a future contract like Tavares did. Over the past week, Tavares began wondering if he would play for his hometown Maple Leafs, a bond too deep for the Islanders to overcome.
Couture grew up not far from Toronto, but he never entertained that possibility because he signed a $64 million, eight-year deal with the Sharks. Couture respected Tavares’ choice and made his own without much difficulty.
”We have some very good players: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns Devin Funchess Jersey , Martin Jones, Evander Kane – very, very good players – Joe Pavelski,” Couture said, rattling off core players all signed long term. ”I want to win. That’s my goal as a hockey player. I believe that San Jose has and will continue to have a very, very good chance at winning in the future. That’s why my decision was so easy.”
It was just as easy for McDonagh, who signed a $47.25 million, seven-year deal with the Lightning, who acquired him at the trade deadline. McDonagh was comfortable with Tampa Bay, which went through an almost-Tavares situation two years ago with captain Steven Stamkos before signing him on the eve of free agency.
Days after signing Stamkos in 2016, the Lightning extended top defenseman Victor Hedman at the first possibly moment like they did with McDonagh. GM Steve Yzerman knows how to work ahead, which is often essential in today’s NHL with important players.
”(If you wait), you don’t really know how it’s going to go,” Yzerman said. ”We go into next year for both parties, we don’t know, and I think it’s worthwhile exploring the opportunity now.”
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