As Brian Engblom said on Lightning Radio at the end of this game: "This was a character win for the Lightning." That's because they overcame a lot of adversity to get the two points in a 4-3 win over the Red Wings.
The Lightning were playing the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent. The Red Wings were coming off a humiliating loss on Saturday in Montreal and were looking to bounce back. And the Wings did play a hard, physical, angry game.
The Bolts lost Steven Stamkos to an injury in the first period and, at different points in the game, were also without three other players. Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette were temporarily shaken up and Brian Boyle had to serve 17 minutes worth of penalty time.
As well, the Lightning surrendered a 3-1 third period lead when they allowed two power play goals and then had to deal with a major Detroit momentum surge.
But in the end, the Lightning found a way. Even though they didn't account for any points in the game, the fourth line of Boyle, Paquette and J.T. Brown had another strong performance and provided an important shift late in the third period. The Red Wings had been buzzing after tying the game and the Lightning were struggling to generate any kind of pressure on Petr Mrazek. But that shift, which began with a Boyle offensive zone faceoff win, included some dangerous looks on Mrazek and effectively curbed Detroit's momentum surge. Then, as time was winding down in regulation, Nikita Kucherov brought the puck into the offensive zone. The puck came to Coburn at the point and he took a shot. The shot was blocked, but the puck ricocheted to Kucherov, who snapped it into the net. That proved to be the game-winner.
There are usually some components that are important for a team to win the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent, even when there are no injuries. It helps to get an early lead and force the other side into catch-up mode. The Lightning did that, receiving first period goals from Kucherov and Stamkos. Also, a big performance from the goaltender can help offset any circumstantial disadvantage. Ben Bishop did allow three goals in this game, but he had a sensational performance. He made several key saves at crucial times to help the Lightning avoid playing from behind. And while the Lightning ultimately lost the special teams battle, 2-1, they did receive an important power play goal from Nikita Nesterov. It was one they would need to put this game in the win column.
There's obviously concern for Stamkos, whose injury came after an innocent-looking puck battle. But the Lightning have to feel proud of how they battled their way to an impressive, gutsy road win.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Brian Engblom):
Kucherov's winning goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Brian Engblom):
- Ben Bishop - Lightning. Crucial saves at key times.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
- Alex Killorn - Lightning. Strong overall game.