To a man, the Lightning players were disappointed in their performance on Tuesday in Carolina, a game in which they came out flat and surrendered two early goals. They had a much better outing in this one against the Red Wings, especially after a rocky sequence midway through the first period.
The Bolts had a good start, netting the game’s first goal at 2:03. Cedric Paquette picked up a loose puck in front and, after his initial attempt was stopped by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek, he lifted the rebound into the top of the net. But the Bolts did not keep the momentum for long. Tampa Bay’s toughest stretch in the game came during the middle part of the opening period. The Lightning had trouble moving pucks fluidly through the neutral zone and the Red Wings were able to steal pucks repeatedly. Detroit also enjoyed some extended offensive zone shifts during this timeframe. The Wings tied the score when Darren Helm was able to walk from behind the Lightning net in front and roof a shot over Ben Bishop’s left shoulder. The Wings continued to apply pressure for the next several minutes and had a few chances to grab the lead. The best of those came following a Lightning turnover at the offensive blue line. Detroit’s Riley Sheahan countered on a clean breakaway, but Bishop stopped the attempt with a glove save.
Finally, in the closing minutes of the period, the Lightning began spending more time in the offensive zone again. In the final minute, the line of Paquette, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn worked hard to maintain possession in the Detroit end. Drouin slipped the puck to Paquette, who zipped a high shot past Mrazek at 19:23. That goal sparked the home side – and the Lightning were able to carry momentum into the second.
The Bolts’ power play had been in a 1-15 slump entering the game. After the Carolina game, Head Coach Jon Cooper shifted players around on the two units. When the Lightning received their first power play at 3:30 of the second, they cashed in. Steven Stamkos, back at his “spot” at the left circle, ripped a one-timer through Mrazek’s pads to extend the lead. Buoyed by that goal, the Lightning dictated play for most of the rest of the period. Their neutral zone struggles didn’t continue – they were effective at chipping pucks past Red Wings’ defenders and tracking them in the offensive zone. Detroit didn’t have nearly as much time in the Lightning zone. At the 11:03 mark, Paquette completed his first NHL hat trick when he converted off a two-on-one shorthanded rush. The Bolts got another before the period ended – Mark Barberio slapped a high shot over Mrazek’s glove with 2:21 left in the frame.
Up by four goals entering the third, the Lightning dominated play for most of the final 20 minutes. Backup Tom McCollum did well in relief of Mrazek – he faced numerous scoring chances and stopped all 17 shots he faced. Despite recording 13 shots of their own, the Wings mustered only a couple of isolated chances on Bishop.
The win was the Lightning’s ninth straight at home, a new franchise record. On Saturday at home, they’ll face the hard-working Columbus Blue Jackets, who handed the Bolts one of their four regulation home losses so far this year. If the Lightning can play the way they did for most of this game, though, they’ll be in good shape to make it 10 in a row at Amalie Arena.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s first period glove save on Riley Sheahan’s breakaway.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. Hat trick.
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 27 saves.
3.Jonathan Drouin – Lightning. Two assists.