As is usually the case, this was another close game between the Lightning and Red Wings. It was also one that had a frenetic finish, as the Red Wings received two late power play chances. But as a whole, the Lightning played a strong game and, even with the closeness of the final score and the white-knuckle finish, were very deserving of the victory.
It's possible to look at this game from a couple of angles. One narrative is that it was a special teams battle. Only one of the five goals was scored five-on-five. The Lightning surrendered a short-handed goal, but they also went two for six on the power play. Both of those power play goals were important - Nikita Kucherov's first period tally came just over two minutes after Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal (so the Lightning didn't trail for very long) and Steven Stamkos' third period strike broke the 1-1 tie. Despite allowing a six-on-four goal to the Red Wings late in the third, the Lightning did a nice job on the penalty kill. The first three Detroit power play chances were quiet (although the Wings applied pressure moments after the first one ended). Then, during the second six-on-four, the Lightning managed to kill it off and secure the victory. So even though special teams goals were even (2-2), the Lightning produced some big special teams plays that were crucial to their win.
Another narrative is how most of the night unfolded when the teams were skating five-on-five. With isolated exceptions, the Lightning dominated. Their forecheck was effective at forcing repeated turnovers in the Detroit end. As a result, the Lightning owned the vast majority of the puck possession. That edge was reflected in the shot attempts, which were 69-46 in favor of Tampa Bay. The Red Wings defended hard without the puck and did a good job of protecting the front of their net. So it wasn't a game in which the Lightning amassed an overwhelming number of scoring chances. But the pressure they applied throughout the game was relentless. And Brayden Point's goal, which came with 2:56 left in the third and turned out to be the game-winner, was the result of an aggressive Lightning forecheck and a Detroit turnover.
Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn't as busy as Jimmy Howard, but he still needed to make some key situational saves. His first period rebound stop on Henrik Zetterberg was his best of the night. He also made a second period save on Andreas Athanasiou's open look from the low slot. And his save on Tomas Tatar at the buzzer sealed the win for the Lightning.
So, as mentioned earlier, this was a strong performance for the Lightning. It came against a Detroit team that had gone 0-4-1 in its previous five games and was hungry for a win. The Bolts will face a similar challenge on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, who are coming off an 8-3 loss to Florida.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Vasilevskiy's key situational saves throughout the game.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal and assist. 11-game point streak.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 29 saves.
- Frans Nielsen - Red Wings. Two goals.