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Burns: 3 Things we learned from a back-to-back sweep

Bryan Burns on Point's no-look game-winner, McElhinney's strong start and 16-straight wins over Detroit

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

The Tampa Bay Lightning completed their second back-to-back sweep of the season following Sunday's tight, 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at AMALIE Arena.

The Lightning downed Montreal 5-4 a night earlier to begin the back-to-back.

Tampa Bay was methodical in its approach against Detroit. The Lightning didn't produce a ton of Grade-A scoring chances, although they did generate 39 shots on net. But they didn't give up many either.

The NHL's top power-play produced the game-winning goal with a little less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation, Brayden Point sniping a shot from a sharp angle along the goal line to beat a stingy Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier and put the Bolts ahead 2-1.

The Lightning clamped down defensively the rest of the way, allowing the one-goal lead to hold through the duration of the final period.

Tampa Bay picked up its 20th win of the season Sunday and now has won three in a row, tied for its longest win streak of the season.

Here's how the Lightning got it done.

Video: DET@TBL: Point wires a wrist shot top shelf for PPG

Brayden Point was pretty humble in the Lightning locker room when asked about his incredible game-winning goal that pushed Tampa Bay's point total to 44 on the season and allowed the Bolts to collect their 11th-consecutive win against an Atlantic Division opponent.

"I had room to walk and I just threw a no-look shot," Point said, matter-of-factly. "Found a hole."

But Point's team-leading 15th goal of the season was a thing of beauty, whether Point wants to admit it or not.

So allow us to brag for him.

Tampa Bay's NHL-leading power play sputtered through its first three opportunities, although the Lightning held the puck in the offensive zone for the entire two minutes and fired off a number of dangerous shots on its opening power play.

The next two fizzled, however.

Trip No. 4 to the power play was the difference in the game.

With possession of the puck a step above the goal line to the left of goal, Point had room to skate in closer to the net. While taking advantage of the space, Point kept his eyes trained on the middle of the ice, making Bernier think he was looking to feed Anthony Cirelli in the slot for a one-timer.

In a split-second, though, Point wristed a shot at the net, all while continuing to look Cirelli's way, finding the smallest sliver of daylight between Bernier and the near post and whistling the puck past the right ear of the Detroit netminder and into the back of the net.

"We've played for so long, we know where we are on the ice," Point said. "I don't know exactly where it is, I just throw it and like I said, lucky it finds the back of the net."

Point scored his seventh power-play goal of the season and produced his third game-winner.

And his brilliance against Detroit came at a time when the Lightning controlled play and held the majority of the possession but were in danger of suffering another unjust result.

Video: DET@TBL: McElhinney shuts the door on Glendening

Curtis McElhinney had yet to win a start at AMALIE Arena this season, going 0-2-1 in Tampa to start the 2019-20 campaign.

The Lightning backup put together arguably his finest performance of the season Sunday, however, to end that dubious streak.

"It's frustrating I think if anything," McElhinney said. "I've had to be patient here, we're almost into the new year."
McElhinney wasn't tested often - he only faced 20 shots total, tied for the fewest the Lightning have allowed this season - but he made some outstanding stops when he did face pressure, especially early with the game still scoreless.

In the opening minutes, Detroit's Andreas Athanasiou got open down low with the puck and time and space, but McElhinney stuck out his right leg to deny the Red Wings' forward at the post.

Later in the first period, Luke Glendening received a pass up ahead from Filip Zadina at his own blue line and raced forward to gain a step on Erik Cernak, the only Lightning skater with a chance to catch him. McElhinney again held strong, forcing Glendening to backhand a puck wide of the target.

"It's nice to get into the game early with a couple key saves," McElhinney said. "There were some good opportunities pretty early, but I was able to get some legs on them and just kind of hold my ground a little bit."

The game settled down for McElhinney after the first. Detroit managed just 11 combined shots over the final two periods. The Red Wings had a couple 2-on-1 rushes in the third. Hedman forced an errant pass on one. McElhinney covered the second.

The Lightning backup improved to 4-4-2 on the season but will likely see his workload increase as Tampa Bay has three back-to-back sets over the next three weeks.

"The goalies played well, but I thought our goalie played exceptional," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "It was one of those games where we controlled the play quite a bit but we didn't give up a ton of shots, not a ton of chances, but we gave up two breakaways, two 2-on-1s. Mac was there to save it for us. It's two points we had to have, and they found a way."

Video: Cooper on Bolts three game winning streak

Tampa Bay's 2-1 victory Sunday night was its 16th in a row over Detroit in the regular season.

That win streak was already a franchise record for most consecutive wins against one opponent.

It's now tied for the third-longest win streak by one team over another in NHL history.

Only a 23-game win streak by Montreal over Washington and a 17-game run by Boston over Ottawa are longer.

The Lightning can tie that Boston streak when they face the Red Wings in their next meeting March 8 in Detroit.

And they can come close to approaching Montreal's domination over Washington from the mid- to late-70s with a sweep of the regular season series, which the Lightning have done each of the past three seasons entering 2019-20.

Including playoffs, Tampa Bay has now won 18 in a row over the Red Wings.

The Lightning also extended their franchise record home win streak against a single franchise to 14 straight at AMALIE Arena over the Wings.

That home win streak ranks tied for 17th in the League for home supremacy against a single opponent.

Pretty remarkable achievement for a franchise in just its 27th season of play against an Original Six team.

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