Similar to Monday’s home game against Montreal, this one had the feel of a playoff game. Both teams brought high intensity to this game, which featured excellent scoring chances and tremendous goaltending. In the end, the Lightning, as they have often done in winning seven of the last eight games between the teams, made a key play late in the game to earn the victory.
The first period was Detroit’s best. Thanks to their structured play and effectiveness at winning puck battles, the Red Wings were able to possess the puck for much of the frame. They also generated the better scoring chances in the first, but goalie Ben Bishop stopped all 13 first period shots he faced. The best of those came during an early Red Wings power play, when he denied consecutive point blank chances for Erik Cole and Joakim Andersson. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard was also sharp in the opening frame, making 11 saves, but as a whole, the Lightning weren’t satisfied with how the period went.
Tampa Bay raised its level in the second, both in terms of winning puck battles and maintaining possession in the offensive zone. The Bolts scored the game’s first goal at 1:22, when Anton Stralman pinched in from the right point and tucked in a rebound of a Victor Hedman left point shot. Detroit tied the score at 6:57 during a power play. After Bishop denied a rebound chance for Cole, the puck slid into the crease. J.T. Brown tried to work the puck back to Bishop, but Tomas Tatar forced the puck into the net before Bishop could freeze it. Still, for most of the period, both before and after Tatar’s goal, the Lightning generated numerous Grade-A chances and limited Detroit’s looks. Howard was terrific in keeping the Lightning to only one goal – and he also got an assist from defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who knocked a loose puck out of the crease before Alex Killorn could punch it in. The teams were tied at one after 40 minutes.
The Lightning dominated the third period and the tone was set on the opening shift. The line of Brian Boyle, Brendan Morrow and J.T. Brown kept the Wings hemmed in their own zone the entire shift. The other lines follow suit. For most of the first seven or eight minutes of the period, the Red Wings struggled to get pucks past the red line. Eventually, the Lightning retook the lead. Earlier in the game, Jonathan Drouin had been moved onto the line with Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn. Just past the halfway point of the period, Drouin broke out of his own zone and carried the puck to the offensive end. He dropped the puck at the right circle to Hedman, who used his long reach to corral it. Hedman fed Killorn in the slot, who rifled a quick shot past Howard’s stick at 10:31.
The Red Wings received a power play chance with just over eight minutes left, but the Lightning killed it off effectively. The Bolts defended well in the closing minutes. Even though Detroit pulled Howard with just over two minutes left, they never put a dangerous shot towards Bishop. Stamkos iced the game when he raced down the ice in pursuit of Niklas Kronwall and the puck. He lifted Kronwall’s stick and stuck the puck into the empty net. It was Stamkos’ 40th goal of the year.
The Lightning got stronger as the game progressed while the Red Wings went in the opposite direction. As Stamkos noted in our postgame interview with him, the Red Wings were completing the second half of a back-to-back, which may have been a factor in how the game unfolded. But Stamkos also stated that the Lightning controlled the third and deserved the win.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Killorn’s GWG in the third period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 30 saves for win.
2.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Two assists.
3.Jimmy Howard – Red Wings. 29 saves in loss.