With this victory, the Lightning have now won eight consecutive games against Detroit, dating back to Game Four of their 2016 First Round Playoff series. They've also won eight straight regular season games versus the Wings. The vast majority of those games have been close contests, often decided by a single goal. This one was no exception. But as has been the case over the last couple of years, the Lightning were the ones to make an extra key play and secure victory.
This was a game in which both teams did a lot of good work forechecking in the offensive zone. Of course, that also means that both teams struggled to make plays out of their own end. As a result, much of the game was spent in one of the attacking zones. While it's true that only one of the five goals scored came right after a defensive zone turnover, that tally turned out to be Nikita Kucherov's game-winner early in the third period.
When the teams were able to get out of their own end, they both generated chances off the rush. The Red Wings did score both of their goals off the rush (one on a penalty shot after a breakaway), but Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all of their other opportunities. Those Detroit rush chances that Vasievskiy stopped included a first period breakaway for Henrik Zetterberg and a third period open look for Nick Jensen.
Of course, the Lightning had some rush chances themselves and they scored the game's first goal on a shorthanded breakaway. Tyler Johnson grabbed a loose puck inside his own blue line and raced up ice. He slipped a shot through the pads of Jimmy Howard at 9:15 of the first. It was an important goal because it turned the tide of momentum. Up until the Johnson tally, the Red Wings had been dictating play and had already forced Vasilevskiy to make a number of tough saves.
Shortly after Johnson's goal, the Red Wings took a penalty and the Lightning converted on the ensuing power play. Victor Hedman started the sequence by tracking down a puck behind the Detroit net after the Lightning had dumped it in. His retrieval allowed the Bolts to set up in the offensive zone. Moments later, Kucherov zipped a shot from the right circle over Howard's glove to extend the Lightning lead. With the goal, Kucherov became just the fourth NHL player in the last 30 years to open a season with a six-game goal streak (Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk were the other three).
But once the second period began, the 2-0 lead didn't last. After serving a penalty, Justin Abdelkader came out of the penalty box on a breakaway. Although Darren Helm scored on the rebound, the Lightning won the coaches challenge for goalie interference and Helm's goal was disallowed. But Hedman had hooked Abdelkader before the initial shot, so Abdelkader was awarded a penalty shot, on which he scored Detroit's first goal. The Wings would tie it late in the frame when Mike Green finished his own rebound off the rush.
So each team outscored the other 2-0 in each of the first two periods. But neither frame was necessarily lopsided. In the second period, the Bolts had some long, sustained shifts in the offensive zone and generated lots of good looks. When the score was still 2-1, Jake Dotchin hit the post. And moments before Green's goal, Brayden Point had a glorious chance to extend the lead. But those chances didn't go in the net, so the score was 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Kucherov's redirection goal early in the third came shortly after he pressured the Wings into a d-zone turnover. While the Lightning did allow some third period chances, notably Jensen's aforementioned opportunity, they did a pretty good job of playing with the lead. The majority of the period was spent in the Detroit defensive zone. The line of Cedric Paquette, Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz was especially effective at getting pucks in deep to the offensive zone and holding onto it.
Another key to the victory was the Lightning's penalty kill, which went 6-6 in the game. Vasilevskiy was a big part of that success - nine of his 29 saves came when the Lightning were shorthanded. The Lightning's kill late in the third was particularly solid and helped preserve the 3-2 win.
The Bolts now head to New Jersey, where they will face a speedy Devils team that has won four of its first five games.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kucherov's third period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 29 saves.
- Mike Green - Red Wings. Goal.