Forty-five hours and 52 minutes after lighting problems at Prudential Center caused their game to be suspended on Friday, the Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning finished what they had started.
The teams continued the contest where it had been interrupted – the Devils were trailing, 3-0, with 9:12 remaining in the second period – and the Lightning finished it off by securing a 4-2 victory in Sunday's conclusion.
Both teams were in action Saturday night. The Devils topped Montreal 2-1 in overtime, while the Lightning lost 4-1 in Philadelphia.
All in all, this was as weird a game as any of the Devils had ever been a part of.
"Everything about the situation was odd," said Jamie Langenbrunner, who assisted on both Devils goals. "From Friday, sitting around here for an hour and a half waiting to see what would happen, to going and playing a game when you still have something to worry about from the night before. I think under the circumstances, we handled it well. We played pretty well all weekend and now we move forward."
Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist on Friday, and added his second tally of the contest on Sunday. Travis Zajac and Zach Parise scored for the Devils, who saw their home winning streak snapped at six games.
Steve Downie and Brandon Bochenski had the Lightning's other goals on Friday.
Yann Danis made his fifth appearance of the season – and first since Dec. 19 – and stopped six of seven shots in 29 minutes. Martin Brodeur, who started on Friday, made four saves in 30:41. The Devils outshot Tampa Bay, 35-14, overall.
"I tried to approach it as if it were a start," Danis said, admitting that he felt a little rusty. "I felt a little bit better in the third. It's kind of hard to really get something going – they weren't getting a lot of shots. But that's good. I get it out of the way, and I'll definitely be ready for the next one."
Zajac cut the deficit to 3-1 in the third period with his 12th, only to have Stamkos restore the Lightning's three-goal advantage 1:09 later. Parise got his team-leading 20th with 33.2 to go in the third.
The game might have turned in the Devils' favor with 3:58 left in the second, but a quick whistle by referee Tim Peel wiped out an apparent Parise goal. Lightning netminder Mike Smith stopped Zajac's shot from the right circle, but Parise stuffed the rebound underneath Smith just after the whistle had blown.
Smith, who played the entire game, finished with 33 saves.
Parise's non-goal occurred between two successful penalty kills by the Devils.
"It would've been nice to get that goal," said head coach Jacques Lemaire. "The only thing, we started with two penalties, and we got this goal that wasn't allowed. So we had a couple of strikes against us right at the start."
Lemaire thought his team was under the gun from the first puck drop.
"I thought right from the start, right when we got that first penalty, that we were running out of the time, rushing all the time," he said. "We had to rush to get the game going; to get into their zone; get some plays, because we knew there was only a period left."
But Langenbrunner didn't blame Peel for the quick whistle.
"No fault of his," said the captain. "He's in the position there that he can't see it. I understand where he's coming from, and he explained that, 'I thought that he had it.' And obviously from Zach's angle and my angle, we could see that it came out. It's unfortunate."
Devils players applauded the fan turnout. The announced attendance of 15,129 included tickets distributed for Friday's game. All fans sitting in the upper deck were invited to move into the arena's lower bowl at the start of the third.
"It's great to see that some fans were dedicated enough to come back," Parise said. "It was good to see that people showed up."
"I was surprised, to be honest with you," he said. "I don't think I would've expected a whole lot of people here tonight. To come out for a half a game, a little bit of a tough game. But it's great to see, and I think we did a very good job of really coming out and playing hard, and really controlled most of the play."
The Devils (31-11-1) lead Buffalo by two points atop the Eastern Conference, and hold a six-point edge over Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic. Jersey's Team visits the Rangers on Tuesday, when they expect to get in a full three periods.
"We hope so," Langenbrunner joked. "That's an old building though; you never know what could happen there."
Langenbrunner set up Zajac's goal on a centering feed from behind the net. Zajac took the pass in the slot on his backhand, and fired a shot underneath Smith's catching glove at 8:36.
The Lightning answered when St. Louis beat Andy Greene to a puck in the Devils' zone and passed to Stamkos for his 23rd of the season on a one-timer at 9:45.
"Would've been a nice save to make after we scored," Danis said. "But it's a tough one with a guy all alone. He shot it pretty quickly. I thought maybe since he had a lot of time, maybe he was going to try to deke. He kind of took me by surprise a little bit with the slapshot."
Parise, who scored the OT winner in Montreal on Saturday, made it 4-2 in the final minute. Zajac stripped the puck from David Hale to set up a Langenbrunner shot that went wide. Zajac dug out the puck behind the net to feed Parise on the doorstep for a chip over Smith with 33.2 seconds remaining.
Lemaire thought Danis handled the game well.
"He was fine," he said. "He made a couple of really good saves. The one-timer on the Stamkos goal, he not a lot of chance on that one. That was pretty quick."
The coach said that although his squad might not be playing its best hockey, the hard work is there and the wins have been coming. He wants to see more balanced production beyond the ZZ Pops line, which had two goals, three assists in the series finale with Tampa Bay.
"That's really important to get the other guys to produce at times, and get the defensemen to produce, also," Lemaire noted. "A goal here and there. Otherwise, one line, they'll be checked and they'll be stopped."
He said the Devils aren't getting too comfortable with their lead in the division.
"Not at all, because they're pushed to play at their best every day," he said. "I don't think the cushion has anything to do with this."
• The Lightning nearly went ahead 4-0 on a shorthanded two-on-one. James Wright beat Danis, but slid the puck back across the net mouth at 7:56 of the third.
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Martin St. Louis
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