Tampa Bay continued its stellar defensive play down the stretch of the regular season. The Lightning saw their shutout streak come to an end at 164:45 in the second period, but they limited the Red Wings to just 23 shots, outshooting the Wings 75-38 over the two contests. Christopher Gibson made his second start of the season and second ever with Tampa Bay and made 22-of-23 stops to earn his first win in over three years.
The Lightning benefitted from goals on the opening shift of the first and second periods. Blake Coleman got the Bolts started just 16 seconds into the contest, a day after the Lightning were blanked through 65 minutes of regulation and overtime. Mikhail Sergachev put Tampa Bay in front 2-0 at 1:09 of the second to end his 26-game goal drought and net what would prove to be the game-winner.
Tampa Bay has four games remaining in the regular season and appears to be rounding into shape with the playoffs approaching.
Here's how Sunday's win was another step in the right direction.
Video: TBL@DET: Coleman scores 16 seconds into the game
1. OPENING SHIFTS PRODUCE ALL THE OFFENSE
The Lightning were held off the scoreboard for 65 minutes Saturday by an improving defensive Detroit team and superb effort in net by Red Wings' netminder Thomas Greiss.
It took the Bolts just 16 seconds to strike Sunday.
Off the opening face-off, the Lightning worked the puck into the offensive zone behind the Detroit net. The forechecking of the Barclay Goodrow-Yanni Gourde-Blake Coleman line produced a turnover that allowed Goodrow to skate free below the goal line. He spotted Coleman setting up in the slot and fed him the puck, Coleman blasting a one-timer past Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier at the far post to give the Lightning an early advantage.
Coleman's goal was the fastest road goal to start a game in Lightning history, bettering the previous mark of 17 seconds set twice previously, the last time by Vinny Prospal in 2003.
"Maybe not the goal to score on the first shift, but you want to get that momentum swung back in your favor," said Coleman, who netted his 13th goal of the season and fifth over the last six games. "It's just kind of a bonus to get one past the goalie. I think it's a great lift for the team. Sometimes it can be a bit of a trap, like it's going to be an easier night than it is. But generally, you can build on that energy. I thought the next shift the boys came over the boards and they had a few good looks as well and could have been 2-0 right away. The boys came ready to play today, and that's the kind of jump you need to jump all over teams and turn the ice in your favor."
The Lightning continued to pressure the Detroit net in the first period, outshooting the Red Wings 19-6 over the frame but couldn't produce the combination to unlock Bernier again.
That wouldn't come until the second period when, again on the opening shift, the Gourde line kept the puck buried in the offensive zone and got a couple of good scoring chances before the puck worked its way to the point for Mikhail Sergachev, who cranked a shot past Bernier from distance to make it 2-0 Lightning.
Sergachev ended a 26-game goal drought with his marker.
The Lightning clamped down enough defensively the rest of the way to make it hold up as the game-winner.
"Clearly the first shift of the first and second period, we needed every one of those goals to win the hockey game," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "You never know how many you're going to need, you've just got to make sure you get one more, and those are the three [Goodrow, Gourde and Coleman] that did it for us."
Video: Christopher Gibson | 5.2.21
2. GIBBY GETS HIS FIRST
The Lightning wanted to rest Andrei Vasilevskiy in the weekend back-to-back set at Detroit to keep him fresh for the start of the postseason.
So the Bolts went with backup Curtis McElhinney on Saturday, who turned in his second-straight fantastic performance in stopping all 15 shots he faced through regulation and overtime for his first shutout of the season.
On Sunday, the Lightning turned to Christopher Gibson, who got his second start of the season, both coming against Detroit, the first on April 4 in a 5-1 loss.
Gibson was ready for the moment. He wasn't called upon often Sunday, but when he was, he was more than up for the challenge, particularly during a two-minute 5-on-3 power play for Detroit in the closing moments with the Bolts holding onto a one-goal lead.
Gibson made 22-of-23 saves and earned his first win in the NHL since March 20, 2018 while a member of the New York Islanders. Gibson recorded his first victory as a member of the Lightning and fourth NHL victory overall.
"It's been a long time coming, but it's exciting for sure," he said. "The guys played really well in front of me today. All the credit goes to them."
Gibson has spent much of the season on the taxi squad, doing a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes that doesn't really get noticed or rewarded with regular playing time.
"He does the little things that some guys would be complaining about, but he's in there paying the price every day," Coleman said. "It's not easy being in kind of that isolated group and not having the games to enjoy and experience. He's been patient. He's worked hard. I've played against him since my days in the minors, so I know that he's a great goaltender and somebody that we can rely upon if we need to. He's just one of those guys, you root for him. You want him to do well. Guys are talking in between periods like 'let's get this for Gibby' because he's done so much for us you just want to give something back to the guy. Great for him, great for the team and he definitely deserved it and earned the win."
Gibson became the third Lightning netminder to earn a win this season. Tampa Bay was able to use its second- and third-string goaltender in the weekend back-to-back and collect three of a possible four points while surrendering just one goal between the two games.
"It was good to get (Gibson) in a game again and show what he can do, and he obviously showed that tonight," Cooper said. "He didn't have a ton of work for the first couple periods, but when you needed him in that 5-on-3, he was there for us. So good on him. To be able to have Vasy not being able to play or resting him or whatever, it was good to see these other guys play and play well. McElhinney, his last couple of starts have been outstanding for us and for Gibby to come in, it's good as a team, as a staff, as a group to know that we have these guys that can come in and step in and win hockey games for us."
Video: Jon Cooper | Postgame 5.2.21
3. PENALTY KILL SAVES THE DAY
The Lightning were clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the contest when they were whistled for three consecutive penalties.
The first two came 1:52 apart as Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn were sent to the box for interference. But as the Bolts were trying to win the face-off and kill off the brief 5-on-3, Barclay Goodrow was hit with a face-off violation after putting his hand over a loose puck on the draw and trying to slide it back to one of his teammates behind him.
Which meant the Lightning were going to have to kill a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage.
That could have been disastrous for Tampa Bay, particularly if Detroit was able to net two goals on the ensuing power play and take the lead in a game it had no business being in.
Instead, the Lightning penalty kill came up with one of its best moments of the season. Detroit only set up a couple of times inside the offensive zone as the Lightning were able to get a number of clears. And when the Red Wings were able to start moving the puck around, the Bolts blocked enough shots and Gibson saw enough of the others to keep Detroit from leveling the score.
"Those guys came through in a big way that were on that kill," Coleman said. "That's what you need. Some unfortunate breaks on those penalties, but when you have guys willing to sacrifice and play the right way and a goalie that played a great game…that's how you've got to close out games."
Gibson said his mentality on the 5-on-3 kill remained the same as the rest of the contest: Just keep making stops.
"Guys made a lot of great blocks and helped me out a lot," he said.
On Saturday, the Lightning had a nearly full two-minute 5-on-3 and weren't able to capitalize. Sunday it was Detroit's turn. Both teams that had a lengthy 5-on-3 in the weekend back-to-back set came out on the losing end, partly because of their inability to take advantage of a must-score situation.
"You need your goalie to be there for you," Cooper said. "You need clears. You need blocked shots, and they stayed in structure and did a heck of a job."
The Lightning penalty kill has now gone three-straight games without allowing a goal and is a combined 16-for-17 over the last five contests.