This was a grind of a game for the Lightning. The Red Wings, despite their struggles this season, have been playing strong defensive hockey of late. Heading into this contest, they had allowed just four total goals in their past three games. That defensive structure was on display versus the Lightning as well. The Bolts had a hard time finding open ice in any of the three zones.
Taking on an opponent playing great "D" and playing the second half of a back-to-back, the Lightning faced a challenge. That challenge became more daunting after the Red Wings scored the game's first goal. Henrik Zetterberg's tally off the rush came at 8:03 of the second period and put the Lightning into catch-up mode. Unlike Thursday's game against Boston, a game in which the Lightning answered quickly after each goal against, the Bolts were down for the rest of the second period and early part of the third.
From the time of Zetterberg's goal until Ondrej Palat tied it at 5:53 of the third, the Lightning hung on. During that segment of the game, the Red Wings had most of the puck possession, shots and scoring chances. It's true that the Bolts did have two very good isolated looks in the second after Zetterberg's goal, but Petr Mrazek stopped Yanni Gourde on a breakaway and denied a Nikita Kucherov chance late in the period. But the rest of the frame belonged to Detroit. In all, the Wings finished the second period with 18 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy kept the deficit at one, however, and gave the Lightning a chance to rally in the third.
And rally they did. For most of the first two periods, the Lightning had trouble producing second chance looks on Mrazek. Either Mrazek didn't allow a rebound or the Wings were the ones to get to pucks after an initial save. But Palat's tying goal did come on a rebound. Kucherov took a shot from the center point and Mrazek, after making the first save, lost track of the puck. Palat jumped on it and tucked in a forehand to tie the game.
Another key to the Lightning's win was their ability to kill five Detroit power plays. Two of those came when the Wings were up, 1-0, and they had an opportunity to extend the lead. Another occurred shortly after Palat's goal. But the Lightning found a way to get through all five of them successfully. Vasilevskiy was a big part of that success, recording 10 saves during the five kills.
The Lightning had a couple of late third period power play chances themselves, but could not break the tie. Jonathan Drouin and Gourde had near-misses on open net looks during the second of those opportunities, but the puck skipped past Drouin's stick on the first and Xavier Ouellet tied up Gourde's stick on the second.
The Red Wings are 8-0 in the shootout this year, so the Lightning helped themselves by winning the game in OT and avoiding the shootout. It also aided them in their pursuit of the Islanders, who won via the shootout in Pittsburgh (regulation and overtime wins are the first tiebreaker). Both teams had dangerous looks in OT, though the Detroit chances didn't result in any shots on goal. Drouin nearly ended it, but he rang a backhander off the post. Eventually, the Lightning forced a turnover deep in the Detroit end. Brayden Point pressured Zetterberg behind the Red Wings net and Kucherov stole the puck. Point accepted a pass and curled from the left circle to the slot. Kucherov was able to get open at the side of the net. Point fed him the puck and Kucherov deflected in the winning goal.
After reeling from three consecutive regulation losses at home, the Lightning bounced back with two road wins. They're still on the wrong side of the playoff cut line, but they've given themselves a chance to stay alive in the race. Now, they'll rest up for two days and get ready for Chicago on Monday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov's winning goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. OT winner and assist.
- Ondrej Palat - Lightning. Goal.
- Henrik Zetterberg - Red Wings. Goal.