While it’s true that the Red Wings played very well in Game Three and for nearly all of Game Four, this was their best overall game in the series. As they have done for much of the series, they successfully bottled up the Lightning and didn’t allow Tampa Bay to use its speed to create time and space. Detroit’s gap control was terrific throughout the night and the Wings were quick to disrupt Lightning plays up ice. Again, they were committed to defending in front of goalie Petr Mrazek. What they also did in this game was possess the puck for a majority of the contest and apply consistent pressure in the Lightning d-zone, especially after the first 10 minutes. The Wings outshot the Lightning, 30-28 – it’s the first game in the series in which the Lightning have been outshot. Detroit also won the special teams battle, scoring two power play goals, including a key marker that gave them a 1-0 lead late with 23 seconds left in the first. They’ve now won all three games in which they’ve netted a power play goal.
So full credit to the Red Wings. But the Lightning also had a role in why they have struggled to generate much of an attack. After a good start, their passing wasn’t crisp in this game. The shaky passing had a ripple effect. From the halfway point of the first period through the second, the Lightning had very little offensive zone time and the Red Wings controlled the puck for most of that time. The Bolts were limited to only five second period shots. In the third, the Lightning finally began getting some offensive zone time, but by then, the Wings already had a 2-0 lead and the Lightning were forced to chase the game. Unlike in Game Four, the Bolts couldn’t get that first goal (which might have provided them some momentum and jump). Instead, the Red Wings extended the lead late in the third with a Pavel Datsyuk power play goal and iced it with an empty-netter.
Now facing elimination, the Lightning will need to win another game in Detroit. It would behoove them to get the lead. Other than Game Two, the Lightning haven’t played with a lead in the series (they didn’t lead Game Four until Tyler Johnson’s OT winner). Force the Red Wings to chase the game in Game Six and perhaps that will get them out of their suffocating structured play. Incidentally, in Game Two, when the Red Wings did have to chase the game, they turned in their worst defensive performance in the series. Hopefully, the Bolts will look to win the special teams battle on Monday – their power play, despite going 0-3 in the game, did generate some good looks. They’d help themselves by turning some of those dangerous chances into goals on Monday.
Here’s what we know about the 2014-15 Lightning. Everytime they’ve been pushed this year, they’ve responded. They’ll need another big response in Game Six.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Drew Miller’s second period goal, which extended the lead to 2-0.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Petr Mrazek – Red Wings. 28 saves for second shutout of series.
2.Henrik Zetterberg – Red Wings. Assist.
3.Jonathan Ericsson – Red Wings. Two assists.