New Jersey Devils playoff hopes take a big hit on Sunday afternoon

The playoff hopes took a big hit for the New Jersey Devils on Sunday afternoon.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning v New Jersey Devils / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils came into this season with big expectations. However, bad goaltending, odd coaching, and tough injury luck have put them in the position of being a bubble team.

They came into Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning off a big Saturday afternoon win over the Montreal Canadiens. They entered the contest five points behind the Bolts for the final Wild Card spot and five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the third Metropolitan Division spot.

Unfortunately, they had one of their worst games of the season when they needed a win the most. After a scoreless first period, they allowed the Lightning to take a 2-0 lead in the early stages of the second. Nikita Kucherov earned assists on the two goals which were his 99th and 100th points of the season.

Luke Hughes and Jack Hughes did some dancing around on the power play and it forced a lucky bounce onto the stick of Tyler Toffoli. He didn't miss and they cut the lead in half with their second PPG in as many games.

The New Jersey Devils had a terrible game against the Tampa Bay Lightning

It seemed like they might have a chance to tie it in the third when they were only down 2-1. They even had two early-period power plays to try and get it done but the effort wasn't there.

The Lightning ended up adding two more goals. Nikita Kucherov assisted on the third goal and he scored the fourth one into the empty net. Make that 102 points for him.

Brandon Hagel had a few points in this game as well (1-2--3) which extends his point streak to 13 games. The Devils were just unable to shut down their top line when it mattered the most. Tampa's skill and experience showed with their veterans leading the way.

Akira Schmid got the start in goal to give Nico Daws a day off and he was not spectacular. It was far from his fault but the third goal scored by Tampa wasn't even a competitive effort from him in the net. This team will go nowhere without some help at that position.

This game takes a big hit towards New Jersey's playoff hopes. It is trending towards being one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Losing this game set them way back again.

Their next game will come on Tuesday night. They will hit California for a few days and it starts with the San Jose Sharks. If they can't beat one of the worst teams in the league, it is even more over than we thought.