Clearly, this was a game the Lightning needed, and, despite having to play without their leading scorer, one that they got.
About an hour and a half before the start of the game, the Lightning learned they'd be without Nikita Kucherov, who was ill. The late notice meant that it was impossible to bring in a replacement, so the Bolts had to play the game one man short.
But in the end, it didn't matter. The Lightning received some strong performances and benefitted from getting key goals at crucial times. That helped offset a spirited challenge from the Red Wings, who, despite playing their fourth game in five nights, displayed high energy throughout the evening.
Last Friday in Detroit, the Lightning had a hard time finding open space in the offensive zone. That wasn't the case in this contest, however, as the Lightning used physical play to force turnovers in the Detroit end. One of those turnovers yielded a late first period goal for J.T. Brown. It was an important strike, because it allowed the Lightning to get out of the first period in a 1-1 tie.
In Kucherov's absence, the Lightning got important contributions from other players. Not only did Brown chip in a goal, so did defenseman Andrej Sustr, who went to the front of the net and had an Ondrej Palat rebound bank into the net off his leg. That goal gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
As the second period progressed though, the Red Wings began controlling most of the puck possession. The Wings were effective at cycling the puck and holding onto it in the offensive zone. That work eventually resulted in a goal for Danny DeKeyser. His point shot deflected into the Lightning net off Jake Dotchin.
Tied at two late in the second, the Lightning's power play came to the rescue. The Bolts converted on back-to-back power plays to open a two-goal lead before the period ended. On the first chance, Alex Killorn earned credit for a goal that DeKeyser accidentally knocked into his own net. During the next power play, Jonathan Drouin zipped a right circle shot past Petr Mrazek's stick.
Speaking of Drouin, he was another player who had a strong overall game. He consistently put the Wings back on their heels and generated numerous scoring chances, both for himself and his linemates.
Early in the third, the Lightning received an important insurance goal from Yanni Gourde. That proved to be significant when the Wings scored a power play goal midway through the frame. Despite yielding more puck possession time to Detroit in the final period, the Lightning defended fairly well without the puck and got this game across the finish line.
There seems to be good news on the injury front, as both Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson stated they are nearing a return. With Kucherov hopefully feeling better soon, we'll see what the Lightning's lineup looks like when they host Montreal on Saturday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Gourde's third period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Ondrej Palat - Lightning. Two assists.
- Yanni Gourde - Lightning. Goal.
- Jonathan Drouin - Lightning. Goal.