Hockey can be a funny game sometimes. On Thursday in Game One, the Lightning thoroughly dominated play and outshot Detroit, 46-14, but ended up losing, 3-2. In this contest, the Red Wings played a much better overall game. They were hungrier on pucks and applied more consistent pressure in the Tampa Bay d-zone. And while it ended as a 5-1 Lightning win, Game Two was actually much closer than the final score might indicate.I
It’s true that the Red Wings picked up their game on Saturday, but the Lightning didn’t stand pat on their Game One performance either. The Bolts did several things well in this game that were improvements over their Game One effort. First, the Lightning were determined to get to loose pucks in front of the Detroit net. Three of their five goals came on rebounds. Second, the Lightning played an effective, physical game. They finished their checks on Detroit players throughout the game, especially Ryan Callahan, who laid several thunderous checks on Detroit players. Third, Tampa Bay killed off all four Detroit power play chances and scored two power play goals of their own (the Red Wings won the special teams battle on Thursday). Fourth, while the Red Wings had much more puck possession than they did on Thursday, the Lightning defended well in front of Bishop. They blocked 21 Detroit shots and, by my count, did not allow one odd-man rush to the Red Wings. Detroit, on the other hand, had some coverage breakdowns that led to Lightning goals. And lastly, Ben Bishop had a terrific game, finishing with 23 saves and making key saves at important times.
The Lightning helped their cause by grabbing an early lead – Tyler Johnson scored just over three minutes in and the Red Wings never again drew even. Two successful first period Lightning penalty kills were crucial in helping the Bolts maintain the early lead. The second period was a strange one. On the one hand, the Red Wings looked dangerous on a number of their shifts. Assistant Coach Steve Thomas joined us during the second intermission and stated that the second period was the Lightning’s worst period so far in the series. Yet the Bolts outscored the Red Wings by three goals in the frame! As I wrote at the top, hockey can be a funny game sometimes. How did that happen? The Lightning finished their chances in the second, which were three in-alone looks on Petr Mrazek, while the Red Wings, despite their territorial advantage, couldn’t solve Bishop in the frame. The Detroit momentum surges in the second were tied to some shaky Lightning puck management. This got better in the third, especially after the Red Wings netted their goal and almost added another on the next shift. After that, the Bolts controlled much of the final half of the period, and added a fifth goal when Filppula converted on the power play at 15:26.
A couple of other notes. High marks to Filppula, who had a magnificent game. Not only because of his goal and highlight reel assist on Andrej Sustr’s goal. In addition, he won a number of key faceoffs and consistently helped move pucks out of the Tampa Bay d-zone up ice and safely into the Detroit end. Also, this game, in terms of how hard both teams competed and how evenly played it was (in spite of the final score), is likely indicative of how the rest of the series will go. Heading into Game Three, the Lightning will aim to improve on faceoffs and avoid those puck management issues that cropped up in the second period. But this game shows that the series pits two evenly-matched clubs who are both capable of playing at a very high intensity level. It should continue to be a very entertaining match-up.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Andrej Sustr’s second period goal, extending the Lightning lead to 3-0.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Vatteri Filppula – Lightning. Goal and assist.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Assist. Plus three.