New Jersey Devils
(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced in Game 5 vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, but his near-perfect performance still wasn’t enough to keep New Jersey’s playoff hopes alive. 

If the New Jersey Devils were going to win Game 5 in Tampa on Saturday afternoon, goaltender Cory Schneider was going to have be the star and quite frankly … perfect.

While Schneider appeared to start the day on the wrong foot, forgetting his stick when taking the ice for warmups, he was nothing short of spectacular between the pipes for Jersey.

However, no matter how many highlight-reel and consecutive saves the Massachusetts native made for his Devils, it wouldn’t be enough as New Jersey fell to the Lightning by a score of 3-1.

The loss officially ended New Jersey’s memorable 2017-18 season, and quest for Lord Stanley this spring.

Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring for the Lightning 8:07 into the first frame. The score would remain the same for a majority of the contest and in large thanks to the man who began the series as the backup goaltender for Jersey.

The Devils showed minimal signs of hope during the first period, but did end the frame with an offensive flurry from the team’s top line (Hall-Hischier-Bratt). Yet, that offensive spark was a distant memory once the puck dropped to begin the second period.

New Jersey took four straight penalties during the second period – the first of which came 5:05 into the frame (Pavel Zacha; Holding), and the fourth coming with less than 7:00 left in the period. Though, the Devils and Jersey’s fan base may have had flashbacks for those long eight minutes on the penalty kill.

Schneider was, well, perfect for all four of the Lightning’s power-play opportunities. No. 35 seemed to always be in perfect position and his composure was second to none—similar to an old friend whose No. 30 hangs high in the Prudential Center’s rafters.

Schneider would then help the Devils kill off another Lightning power play to begin the third, and finished the day stopping all 13 shots on Tampa’s man-advantages.

On the other end of the ice in the blue paint, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was not challenged until the third period when he faced 12 shots.

Midway through the final frame, still trailing 1-0, the Devils had a few scoring chances—and a bouncing puck in front of the Lightning net almost trickled off of the left post and in. Still, it was Vasilevskiy who managed to ultimately keep the puck out of the net with his right skate.

Nikita Kucherov would then answer with a snipe (12:27 into the third) from the top of the point, which beat a screened Schneider just above the left pad and below his left catching hand.

It seemed that Kucherov’s fifth goal of the series was the dagger that would finally let Amalie Arena breath again. But the Devils wouldn’t die without a last minute fight …

After New Jersey pulled Schneider for an extra-attacker with 3:32 left in regulation, the team managed to control the play’s next 32-seconds and scored off of a one-timer from forward Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri’s snipe from the top of the point was his second goal of the playoffs and in just as many games.

The Devils would make one more push in the final two minutes, but couldn’t seem to get shots through Tampa’s veteran defense core. Lightning forward Ryan Callahan then put home an empty-net goal with 0:02 left to seal the deal.

As for Schneider, his 36 saves didn’t justify his road performance on Saturday afternoon. The quality shots and scoring chances he faced—were countless, to say the least. The veteran even took a page out of Martin Brodeur’s book when he made a two-pad stack and glove save on Lightning forward Tyler Johnson late in the third period, too.

The Lighting will advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and await the winner of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins series.

There’s much to be proud of if your Jersey’s Team. The Devils were a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2012 and were given the lowest odds out of any team in the NHL to make the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to the start of the 2018-18 campaign.

There’s more to come from a team on the rise and in due time, Jersey.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.