Why Tampa Bay’s second line was so effective in the Devils’ Game 1 loss

New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall (9) is congratulated by defenseman Will Butcher (8), right wing Kyle Palmieri (21) and teammates as he scores a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of game one of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena.

(Photo: Kim Klement, Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

TAMPA – Taylor Hall was all over the map in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at Amalie Arena. In the second period, Hall skated on three different lines, being double-shifted in order to get away from Brayden Point, Tampa’s stud rookie centerman who chased Hall all over the ice.

The Devils’ top line of Hall, Hischier and Kyle Palmieri were on the ice for both of Tampa’s goals in the second period and coach John Hynes needed to get his best offensive weapon away from Point in order to create some chances for the Devils’ to score.

Devils’ coach John Hynes talks about the breakdowns that led to the Tampa Bay Lightning taking an early 3-0 lead in the Game 1 loss.

Hall did eventually score, and he did so with Point’s line on the ice. Everyone started the game keyed in on the top line, but it was the Lightning’s second line of Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson that effectively won the game for Tampa Bay.

They scored six points and that’s not including their special teams contributions. While the top line was shut down completely until Nikita Kucherov scored an empty-netter in garbage time, the same could not be said of the second line, which is a whole other battle the Devils will need to find a way to fight.

“Three skill guys, three guys that can really move and they all have a high battle level,” Hall said. “You see they’re not big guys but they’re heavy on pucks. The second and third efforts are all over the ice and that’s what makes them an effective line both ways.”

Double-shifting Hall to get him away from that line didn’t seem to make too much of a difference. He was right back on his normal line by the end of the second period. The Devils’ were able to match lines more effectively late in the game but it cost them scoring chances.

The shutdown third line of Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen can’t play against two lines, so Hall and his linemates, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, are going to have to find a way to neutralize them and be able to possess the puck.

“They’re very good players. They’re fast, they’re tenacious, they’re strong on the puck and they’re all real smart, heady, crafty players,” Hynes said. “They play both sides of the puck really well. The combination of the three of them, those are all real high-end quality players but I think the way they compete and their hockey sense really helps them out.”

Apr 12, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) shoots as New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (1) makes a save during the first period of game one of the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena.
Quotable

From his view in the net, the Devils weren’t able to push the Lightning to the outside boards. They let them have all of the ice in between and even worse, they let them have the slot. Hall said there was nothing Kinkaid could do about the goals scored in the low slot, it’s on them to protect that area.

“(We need to) work from the slot out and make sure first and foremost we’re taking care of that dangerous area,” Hall said. “Those are really hard goals for Keith to stop. He has to come to his angle and get out so fast that it’s tough for him to stop. If we can do a better job of cleaning up that area and not letting them get Grade-A chances like that and really letting Keith see the puck. He’s going to make those saves.”

But for his part, Kinkaid said he thinks he can make those saves. He recognizes that good goalies carry teams deep into the postseason and he wants to be that guy.

“I want to make a big save there,” he said. “It’s playoff time, so you’ve got to make those big saves for your team. It’s on me a little bit. But I definitely have another level there.”

Notable

Brian Boyle skated in his 107 th playoff game on Thursday night and is the only player on the Devils’ roster to have to played in over 100. … Travis Zajac’s third-period goal was his first postseason goal since Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

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