Struggling goaltender Dwayne Roloson stopped only nine of 12 Devils' shots on goal in less than 21 minutes, but the worst thing regarding the disappointing play of the 42-year-old backstop was the quality of the scoring chances with which New Jersey was able to score.
Devils' goalie Johan Hedberg made 32 saves on 36 shots in leading New Jersey to the victory. It was Hedberg's second straight win and fifth in his last seven decisions, improving to 9-5-1 overall this season.
New Jersey jumped to a 2-0 lead early in the opening period. Bryce Salvador took a weak shot from the left point that Roloson fought off, but left the rebound right out in front. As Roloson and defenseman Brett Clark sprawled out along the ice in an attempt to turn the shot aside, Petr Sykora instead backhanded the puck over them both and into the yawning upper half of the net for a 1-0 Devils lead just 28 seconds into the contest.
Winger Dainius Zubrus added a power play marker at 5:38, deflecting a Matt Taormina point shot past Roloson for a 2-0 NJ lead.
Tampa Bay stormed back to tie things with two late period strikes, as Steve Downie and Blair Jones scored within 1:20 of each other to send the teams to the locker room in a 2-2 deadlock after one period.
The Lightning outshot the Devils 17-6 in the pivotal second period, but it was New Jersey who scored all three goals in the stanza.
In the first minute of the middle frame, Parise somehow snuck the puck inside the near post and past Roloson for yet another weak goal, taking back all the momentum the Lightning had garnered late in the first period with his ninth goal of the year. The tally marked the end of the night for Roloson, as Mathieu Garon was called upon to replace the slumping goalie.
But Garon was greeted with his defensemen leaving him hung out to dry, as Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk broke in on a two-on-none break. Parise fed a perfect pass across the crease for Kovalchuk to tap into the empty side of the net, restoring New Jersey's two-goal lead at 4-2.
When Henrik Tallinder went off for tripping at the 13:07 mark of the period, Tampa's power play unit had an opportunity to get back to within one. Instead, they allowed a Henrique shorthanded goal on another gorgeous Parise goalmouth feed just 16 seconds after Tallinder went to the penalty box to blow the game wide open at 5-2 heading into the third period.
Tampa Bay attempted to mount a comeback in the third period, and Steven Stamkos drew them to within two with his 17th of the season midway through the frame. Nate Thompson had a golden opportunity to pull the Bolts to within one when left all alone in the slot shortly thereafter, but Hedberg flashed leather in stoning Thompson, who was left staring at the rafters in disbelief.
Stamkos netted his second of the evening and 18th of the year with Garon pulled for an extra attacker and just 33.5 seconds remaining in regulation to make it a 5-4 score, but Tampa couldn't get the equalizer,
With this being the lone game in the League Monday night, New Jersey jumped from 12th place in the Eastern Conference all the way to the ninth slot with a 15-13-1 record.
Tampa Bay has been in a free fall for some time, losing their seventh game in the last eight outings. Their play has been even less inspired since the loss of Martin St. Louis to facial fractures after he was struck in the face with a puck during practice last week.
The Lightning are now four games under the .500 mark (12-16-2) and currently sit in 13th place in the East. The Achilles heel of the Lightning once again appears to be their spot between the pipes, as the five goals yielded Monday pushed their total over 100 for the season -- joining the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators as just the third NHL club to go over the century mark. Last year, it was Mike Smith and Dan Ellis who gave the Bolts subpar netminding until Roloson was brought in to stop the bleeding. It was one of the galvanizing moments in a season in which Guy Boucher's Tampa Bay squad experienced a renaissance of sorts in making a long postseason run, following several years of turmoil and futility.