EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- Jamie Langenbrunner and John Madden scored third-period goals and Martin Brodeur recorded his third shutout of this year's playoffs Thursday night as the New Jersey Devils blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
New Jersey had a week off after eliminating the Boston Bruins in five games in the opening round. While the Devils needed some time to get going offensively, they smothered the Lightning by yielding just 15 shots -- seven over the first two periods.
"We did a good job in the neutral zone, taking away their speed and transition game, forcing them to dump (the puck)," New Jersey captain Scott Stevens said. "I think that was the key to the game."
Langenbrunner broke the scoreless tie with 12:19 to go in the third, fooling Nikolai Khabibulin with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that may have ticked off Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina.
It was the sixth playoff goal for Langenbrunner, moving him into a tie for the league lead.
"It was a pretty lucky goal, but we'll take it," said Langenbrunner, who shares the playoff lead with six goals. "You never know, games turn on the weirdest things sometimes. The idea was to get the puck on the net as much as we could."
Less than four minutes later, Madden finished off a three on one by beating Khabibulin with a wrister from the inner edge of the right faceoff circle. The center of the Devils' checking line lead the team in scoring in the conference quarterfinals with two goals and six assists.
Turner Stevenson capped the scoring with 2:51 to play as New Jersey remained the only unbeaten home team in the postseason at 4-0.
Brodeur was hardly tested. With just over five minutes remaining, he stopped Brad Richards shot from the right side and got enough of Dave Andreychuk's try on the rebound to send it off the left goalpost. Defenseman Colin White swept the puck out of danger.
"With it being 0-0 for a long time, you have to stay awake because that little mistake can cost you," he said. "I tried to stay in the game as much as possible and I had to make two big saves when it was 2-0."
It was the 16th career playoff shutout for Brodeur, giving him sole possession of second place on the all-time list.
"Marty was sharp," Devils coach Pat Burns said. "That's a tough game for a goaltender, when there's not a whole lot of chances that were being generated, especially in the first part of the game."
Game 2 will be is Saturday at New Jersey.
"We are going to have to play better, and any chance we get, we are going to have to shoot," Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier said. "Brodeur only had to stop seven shots in the first two periods. We need to get 20 or 25 shots on him and then you'll have a different ballgame."
The Lightning lost the first two games of the conference quarterfinals at home before reeling off four wins to eliminate the Washington Capitals.
"I don't think we competed too hard offensively," Tampa Bay Coach John Tortorella said. "I think we showed them too much respect. We expect it to be very difficult to play against them, but I think we need to push a little harder."
Langebrunner's third playoff game-winner came off a turnover in the neutral zone. He took two strides over the blue line before wristing a shot that hit Kubina and bounced past Khabibulin.
"We had a lot of rust in the first period, and in the second period we had a lot of opportunities. In the third period, we were able to get the puck to go in," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said.
The odd-man rush that culminated in Madden's goal started when Stevens blocked a shot by defenseman Dan Boyle.
"We didn't score the first two periods, then Jamie got a bit of a lucky goal. I was surprised we scored right after that," said Madden, who has had a hand in nine of New Jersey's last 11 goals.
Stevenson's first playoff tally in nearly two years was a brilliant solo effort. He poked the puck around defenseman Jassen Cullimore inside the Lightning blue line, deked to his backhand and shoveled a shot over Khabibulin.