There were several keys to this impressive win for the Lightning. They were able to play with the lead and, at the same time, prevent the Red Wings from playing with the lead. They won the special teams battle, scoring two power play goals and not allowing any on Detroit’s two power play opportunities. And they received a terrific performance from the line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn.
In the first period, both teams put on a clinic of how to play structured, sound defensive hockey. Neither team had much room to make plays and while the Wings outshot the Lightning, 10-4, most of those Detroit shots were innocent attempts from the outside.
That changed in the second, as the Lightning began activating their defensemen. At 1:23 of the frame, Braydon Coburn backhanded a pass from the right corner through the crease to J.T. Brown, who one-timed it in. Although the Red Wings tied the score on a Gus Nyquist rebound goal a few minutes later, the Lightning received a power play chance shortly thereafter. During that man advantage, Kucherov faked a shot from the left point, drawing Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek out of his crease. Kucherov instead wired a pass to Johnson at the right circle, who roofed his shot into the top of the net.
The Red Wings are a sound, defensive team that plays even tighter “D” when they get the lead. So it was important that the Bolts never allowed Detroit to get the lead in this game. Instead, in having to play from behind, the Red Wings had to open up their game, which gave the Lightning more room to maneuver in the period. But Mrazek, who made 13 saves in the frame, didn’t allow another goal.
Up 2-1 entering the third, the Lightning quickly added to their lead with another power play goal. Killorn hammered Danny DeKeyser in the corner, forcing a turnover. Ondrej Palat grabbed the puck, took it behind the net and centered to Kucherov, who buried his shot past Mrazek from the top of the crease.
The Red Wings made a strong push after Kucherov’s goal, but the Lightning withstood it. Ben Bishop made several key stops in the period, preventing the Wings from cutting into the Lightning’s lead.
This was a solid victory against an excellent opponent. Another one is coming to town on Friday. If the Bolts want to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on that night, they’ll need to produce a similarly solid performance.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Nikita Kucherov’s third period PPG.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Goal and assist.
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 24 saves for 100th win as member of the Lightning.
3.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Goal, team-high five shots