Richards scores in regulation and shootout to lead Lightning past Devils 3-2

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Richards scored twice in regulation and had the only goal in the shootout to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Devils on Thursday night. Richards, second up for Tampa Bay in the shootout, whipped a forehand shot over Martin Brodeur for the winning goal.

"It feels great to beat a great goalie like that," Richards said. "When you can score on him, you take it because you know you're not going to get many by him."

Johan Holmqvist was steady throughout for Tampa Bay, making 25 saves in regulation and one more in overtime before denying Zach Parise, Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias in the shootout.

"Elias and Gionta missed their shots," Holmqvist said. "It was nice to see that.

"It was a huge win for us. I like the shootout. I don't mind it at all."

Holmqvist is 3-0 in shootouts and has yet to give up a goal on 13 shots.

The Lightning won for the sixth time in their last seven games and did it without major contributions from Lecavalier and St. Louis who totaled one assist. Each had 63 points coming into the game, good for a share of second place among the scoring leaders.

The Devils controlled those two but had no answer for Richards, who scored twice in the second period to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Richards evened the score 1-1 as he took a long lead pass from Paul Ranger and got the jump on the Devils' defence. Richards broke in alone and beat Brodeur with a forehand at 4:07.

Richards struck again for a power-play goal with 3.5 seconds remaining. After Dan Boyle took a point shot that Brodeur blocked, Lecavalier appeared to steer the rebound to Richards, who hit the wide-open left side of the cage. Lecavalier was not credited with an assist by the official scorer though St. Louis did get one to extend his point-scoring streak to 13 games - the longest in the NHL this season.

"Give credit to Tampa Bay," Brodeur said. "They skated well and took advantage of their opportunities for a breakaway and a power-play goal on two breakdowns that we had. "

The Devils, who had won three straight and nine of their last 11 games, came out stronger in the third period and evened the score 2-2 on Paul Martin's first goal of the season with 7:10 left in regulation. With New Jersey on a power play, Martin dug the puck out of a scrum along the right board, skated into the circle and beat the Holmqvist to the short side.

Devils coach Claude Julien faulted his team for waiting until the third period to step up their game.

"For two periods, I don't think we played very well," Julien said. "To beat this team, you need three periods like we had in the third.

"Until that time, we were a little sluggish in our passing and decision making."

Jay Pandolfo got the Devils' other goal 1:58 into the game. Taking a feed from John Madden, Pandolfo beat Holmqvist from the slot with a shot that hit the goalie's pad on the way into the net.

Tampa Bay had a chance to pull even with less than two minutes left in the period, but Lecavalier's shot hit the crossbar.

Notes: Holmqvist made his first appearance against the Devils . . . New Jersey D Johnny Oduya returned after missing six games with a shoulder injury . . . The game was the first of four this season between the Lightning and Devils . . . The Lightning's consecutive game point-scoring record is 13. St. Louis had done it previously as had linemate Vinny Prospal and Brian Bradley . . . Lecavalier saw two personal streaks end: he had scored goals in five straight and had picked up points in eight in a row.