TAMPA, Fla. - Martin Brodeur made the tough saves. Keeping fluky shots out of the net was another matter.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur hangs his head after giving up a third-period goal to Tampa Bay Lightning's Vaclav Prospal, of the Czech Republic, during an NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal hockey game Monday, April 16, 2007, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Vincent Lecavalier scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a sharp-angle shot that skipped between the goalie's leg and the post, then Vinny Prospal delivered the winner on a third-period deflection as the Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in Game 3 of their first-round Eastern Conference series Monday night.
"They threw pucks at the net, hoping something was going to happen," Brodeur said.
"The first one, he hits the side of the net and it hits me and goes in. Another fluke one, the last one, was almost a copy of (Lecavalier's winner in Game 2) the other night. The puck is not bouncing (our way), but our bounce is due."
Johan Holmqvist, who has rebounded from a shaky NHL postseason debut to outplay Brodeur the past two games, stopped 30 shots as the seventh-seeded Lightning took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Tampa.
"We slugged our way through. It could have gone either way," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "A big play wins it. Fluky goals both ways on both teams, but we just found a way to slug our way through and get a win."
Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, entered the playoffs with a 1.89 career goals-against average, but has given up three in each game of the series. Tampa Bay also won three of four regular-season meetings against the goalie, who won a league-record 48 games.
Lecavalier scored his power-play goal on a sharp-angle shot that appeared to catch Brodeur by surprise in the first period. He had an assist on the winner, which Prospal scored from in front of the net with 6:29 remaining in the third.
Brodeur's experience and strong track record are the main reasons many expect the Devils ultimately to win the series, however the 28-year-old Holmqvist is making it interesting in his first postseason appearance.
"We all know what he's capable of, and that he's carried this organization for years during the regular season and the playoffs," New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner said. "Maybe he hasn't been at his best yet, but we know it's there."
The Devils outshot the Lightning 9-5 in the opening period, but were 0-for-3 on the power play and failed to take advantage of a two-man advantage they held for just over a minute after Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis went to the penalty box for high-sticking.
"We had our opportunities," Langenbrunner said. "It seems like every time they get a break, they find the net. It's definitely disappointing, but it's a long ways from over."
Holmqvist rebounded from allowing five goals on 24 shots in a Game 1 loss to make 34 saves in Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory in Game 2 at New Jersey. He was solid again Monday night, even after the second-seeded Devils tied it at 1 on John Madden's goal with 2:33 left in the second.
The Lightning goalie kept the game from getting away with a huge save as time expired in the period, rejecting John Dowd from point-blank range and setting the stage for an exciting third period.
"I wasn't sure if I should go out and I stayed in," Holmqvist said. "He made a play and it was kind of a lucky save."
After Richards gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead just 69 seconds into the period, New Jersey countered with Zach Parise's goal that deflected off Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle three minutes later to give Brodeur another chance to take over the game.
The Devils goalie couldn't do it.
Instead, it was Holmqvist blocking the final shot in the closing seconds to put his team up in the series.
"He played really well," St. Louis said of Holmqvist. "That's the kind of goaltending that you need."
Notes:@ Before the game, the teams and crowd of 20,219 observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Monday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech. ... Parise's goal was his fourth of the series. ... St. Louis had assists on each of Tampa Bay's goals. ... Richards had an assist on Lecavalier's goal and has at least one point in 12 consecutive playoff games. He has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points during the streak, which began in Game 4 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. ... A No. 7 seed has eliminated a No. 2 seed each of the past nine years. It has happened in the Eastern Conference six times since 1997.