DETROIT – It happened early and brought the fans at Joe Louis Arena to their feet on Wednesday night.
It wasn't for a goal scored by the Detroit Red Wings, either – even though each of those in Detroit's 4-2 victory against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning had the same effect.
During a stoppage in the first period, with Detroit leading 1-0, a video tribute flashed up on the scoreboard honoring Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman – who made his first visit back to the building since leaving the organization's front office in 2010 to become the Lightning's general manager. A live shot of Yzerman followed, along with an ovation and stick taps by players from both teams.
Then the focus quickly shifted back to hockey, probably how the former Red Wings captain wanted it. It was also back to winning for Detroit (15-7-1), which has won a season-high six straight games and 10 out of the last 12.
"I like winning, so good for our group," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who wasn't thrilled with his team's performance overall. "They're all good wins. I never met a win I didn't like in all my years. I didn't like us as much tonight, but I thought we've done a lot of good things (during the win streak). We're playing with more tempo."
Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm each scored for the Red Wings (15-7-1), who coughed up a 2-0 lead in the second period and stormed back with two in the third for the win – one by Holmstrom on a power play and Helm's off a Lightning miscue.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard (21 saves) was solid again in his 16th straight start. He was also sharp late in the third while stopping a pair of prime scoring chances to preserve the two-goal lead. One of those stops was a nice snag of the puck out of mid-air off a wrist shot by Matt Gilroy on a breakaway.
Tampa Bay (11-11-2) got goals from Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, while Dwayne Roloson took the loss in net for the Lightning – who took some consolation in the fact they battled back to tie one of the hottest teams in the League before ultimately losing.
The Wings also had winning streaks of four and five games this season and have now made up for an ugly six-game winless stretch that had many wondering if this was the year the they started to fade from the NHL's upper echelon.
Don't count Lightning coach Guy Boucher among those doubters. Detroit improved its record against Tampa Bay to a sterling 13-1-1 mark in this arena and 25-5-2 all-time.
"This is a team that's so lethal offensively," Boucher said. "They protect the puck extremely well, they have a lot of poise with the puck and their defensemen are hard to get through. To me, this is a top notch Stanley Cup contender team and (the score) was 2-2 after two periods and we're on the road, so we did pretty good. We killed ourselves with a few turnovers and they made their power play work in the third and we didn't."
It still didn't help the Lightning's cause to fall behind 2-0 in the first 11 minutes of the game, though.
Datsyuk's seventh goal gave the Wings an early 1-0 lead 4:58 into the first after he blasted a shot off a rebound in the slot that went under Roloson's catching glove and Ericsson made it 2-0 on a wrister from the slot six minutes later for his first goal of the season.
Roloson, however, turned up his play in that opening period – especially toward the end with Detroit on a power play. He made a highlight-worthy stop on a rebound created by a deflection of Lidstrom's shot, which deflected off a skate blade, rung off the left post and landed in the blue paint for a point-blank whack by Holmstrom.
Then, with time running out, Roloson made two more stops on rapid-fire shots by Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg to keep it 2-0 heading into the first intermission. Roloson's teammates made sure those saves were meaningful, when the Lightning knotted it up 2-2 in the second on the goals by St. Louis and Stamkos – his 16th marker and 26th point.
St. Louis' came first, off a one-timer from the slot to cap a power play at the 9:35 mark. Stamkos then finished off a pretty play with 14 seconds left in the period by burying a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle off a long cross-ice feed from Gilroy.
It could've been a back-breaker for Detroit. Instead the Red Wings regrouped and won it in the third.
"We feel like we can win the close ones," Howard said. "It's not what you want to ideally do, giving up the lead there at the end of the second. It's a huge momentum shifter. We stuck to the game plan. When we get away from the game plan is when we get ourselves in trouble. When stick with it, we're a very dominant team."