The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to complete a three-game season sweep of the visiting New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.
Playing in his 200th NHL game, Brandon Hagel capped his hat trick by scoring twice in the third period to pace the Lightning to a 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Playing on the top line, Hagel netted the game-winning goal after captain Steven Stamkos tied the match earlier in the third period with his 30th tally of the season.
Hagel finished his milestone night by scoring into an empty net to seal the win for the Lightning (42-26-6, 90 points).
The hat trick was the second of the 24-year-old Hagel’s NHL career. His first came in his 100th career game while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Just a little bit of adversity,” Hagel said of his team overcoming a second-period deficit. “Obviously, we faced that a few times this year. We were able to find a way tonight and come away with the win.”
The two Eastern Conference playoff-bound clubs met twice last week in Newark, N.J. The Lightning left the Garden State with four points following a 4-1 victory on Tuesday and 4-3 win in a shootout on Thursday.
The Lightning also had the feeling they were back to looking like the side from the past few seasons rather than the one that went 0-4-1 in a five-game losing streak that started late last month.
“These two games against the Devils were a byproduct of us playing the way we want to coming down the stretch and into the playoffs,” Stamkos said.
While Tampa Bay is ascending, New Jersey (44-18-7, 95 points) is going in the other direction. The Devils squandered a two-goal lead through 40 minutes on Saturday and surrendered four unanswered tallies in a 4-2 setback to the Florida Panthers.
That defeat left New Jersey with a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) after a trio of consecutive triumphs over the Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said he felt sorry for goaltender Akira Schmid, who stopped all 30 Florida shots through two periods. Schmid yielded three goals on 10 shots in the third period before Sam Reinhart sealed the Panthers’ rally with an empty-net goal.
“Really, just a couple of big breakdowns,” Ruff said. “I’m embarrassed what we did to our goaltender. … To do that to ourselves, that’s more than a punch in the gut.
“We’d been good with playing with a lead. But that’s not Devils hockey. We left out a great performance by our goaltender.”
The Devils dropped their first match in regulation when leading after two periods, falling to 28-1-2. They also lost two of three in the season series with Florida.
“We had the perfect situation going into the third,” defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler said of the two-goal lead. “But we just gave it away. That shouldn’t happen.”
Captain Nico Hischier scored his 29th goal of the season to open the scoring in the second period. Jesper Boqvist doubled the advantage just over five minutes later with his eighth goal of the season.
–Field Level Media