Heading into game 3, the New Jersey Devils knew they had to play better to keep the series alive. With that being said, the Devils were ready for a battle come puck drop. Throughout the entire game, the Devils played from behind. However, this time instead of breaking down, the Devils stuck with their game plan to pull out a 5-2 victory. Once the game ended, the series finally took on a nasty edge that defines playoff hockey.
2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Five Takeaways from Tampa Bay-New Jersey Game 3
Here are five takeaways from Game 3:
- Discipline: Through the first three games of the series, taking undisciplined penalties have cost both teams games in this series. While the Devils gave up two power-play goals to the Lightning, the penalty kill was better in crunch time. Killing penalties or creating chances short-handed can change the tide of a playoff. That is exactly what the Devils did in the second period. Trailing 1-0, Blake Coleman created chances short-handed, which would lead to the Devils first goal scored by Taylor Hall. In the first two, the Lightning made the Devils pay for poor mistakes. In Game 3, it was the Devils turn. The Devils power-play was much better capitalizing on a 5-on-3 power play goal by Will Butcher to tie the game. From their New Jersey took it Tampa Bay. The Devils would add two empty net goals, one of which was a short-handed goal. Special teams will continue to be a factor in Game 4.
- Goaltending: New Jersey made the right call going to Keith Kinkaid in Games 1 and 2, as he was the hot goalie heading into the playoffs. It is not like Kinkaid played poorly in the first two games, it was just that Andrei Vasilevskiy was just better. Insert Cory Schneider, who stood on his head and as he matched Vasilevskiy save for save. Schneider gained confidence as the game wore on and made huge saves in the third period with the Devils up 3-2. Winning in his game since December 2017 and his first ever playoff game has given Schneider the ability to go back out in this series and steal another game.
- Playing 60 Minutes: For the first time all series, the Devils played a full 60-minute. Regardless of the score, the Devils showed the will and determination they had all season long to pull out a victory in Game 3. In the first two games, the Devils inexperience showed up as they could not fight back against the Lightning. Back on home ice, this young Devils team would not back down to the Lightning. With their backs against the wall, New Jersey played their best game of the series. In order to extend the series even further, New Jersey must continue to play the way they did in Game 3.
- Physical Play: Playoff hockey is all about emotion and physical play. In any series, a big hit or big scrum can change momentum in a game. Since the beginning of the season, the Devils were about being a brotherhood. The team’s trip to West Point during training camp really instilled that fact. Last night, after Blake Coleman got hit, the Devils players came to his aid. With seconds winding down, a melee broke out as 10 players, five from each team, received 10-minute misconducts. At the heart of that was the Devils emotional leader Brian Boyle. Finally, this series has a nasty edge to it that playoff hockey is built around.
- Home-Ice Advantage: Before even the puck dropped, there was electricity in the air as fans entered Prudential Center. Prior to Game 3, the last home Devils playoff game was Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Fans were ready for this game and so were the Devils as they fed off their energy. From warmups through the end of the game, the Devils players knew their fans were there for them. The Devils held their nerves quite well under the circumstances. The energy was high throughout the entire game and with each goal the Devils scored, the place went crazy. The Devils will look to feed off their crowd in Game 4. As Taylor Hall will his team to victory again recording a three-point night, the crowd chanted “MVP, MVP, MVP” even after the final horn went off.