Game One of this series was not only played at a high intensity level, it was also extremely entertaining. Game Two simply picked up where Game One left off. In another well-played contest between two evenly-matched teams, the Lightning again were the ones to break open a tied game in the third period. As a result, they have opened a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven game series.
Don’t be fooled by the three-goal margin of victory. The game was nip-and-tuck until the closing minutes, when the Lightning pulled away. As was the case in Game One, both teams had moments when they carried momentum and forced the opposing goalie to make key saves. Also, like in Game One, both teams enjoyed multiple power play opportunities (they combined for 12 power play chances in Game Two after having nine combined chances in Game One) – so special teams were a key. But there were two significant reasons why the Lightning were able to emerge victorious. First, they were able to answer a Detroit tally with a goal of their own – twice the Red Wings tied the game only the see the Lightning retake the lead a few minutes later. So the Lightning forced the Red Wings to play most of the game chasing a deficit. Second, the line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn had another monster game. After producing seven points in Game One, they combined for eight more points in this game. For the second consecutive game, the Johnson line scored the eventual game-winning goal in the third period.
The Lightning probably would have liked to have scored more than one power play goal in this game. They had seven opportunities – a goal on one of those chances in the second or third periods could have given them some breathing room when they were up by one goal. But the tally they got was a significant one – it came during a long five-on-three in the first period. Failing to score on that five-on-three would have given Detroit a lot of momentum. Instead, Kucherov rifled a one-timer into the top of the net and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
It’s true that the Lightning also allowed a power play goal in this game – a tally to Brad Richards in the third period that momentarily tied the game at two. But the Bolts killed off the other four Detroit power play chances, including three in a row in the final 8:10 of the second period. So kudos to the penalty kill unit – anything less than a 4-5 performance could have cost them the game.
As for the other Lightning goals (excluding the Killorn empty-netter), they all came off the rush. Shortly after Dylan Larkin had tied the game for Detroit in the second period, Jonathan Drouin jumped on a loose puck just inside the Lightning blue line and countered on a three-on-two. He slid a no-look pass to Brian Boyle in the slot and Boyle wristed a shot past Jimmy Howard to re-establish a one-goal lead.
Then, following Richards’ third period power play goal for Detroit, Johnson made a steal at center ice and barreled into the offensive zone on another three-on-two. He slipped a pass to Killorn, who drew Howard out of his crease. Killorn carried the puck behind the net and worked it in front to Johnson, who nudged it past the short side post into the vacated net. That line struck again after Kucherov jumped on a loose puck in the offensive zone and set up a Johnson one-timer from the slot.
Both teams have had their chances off the rush during the first two games of the series. But the Lightning have been more efficient at cashing in on their looks.
The Lightning have managed to hold serve by winning the first two games at home. Now Detroit will try to match that feat. The Lightning will need to be ready for an even more desperate opponent on Sunday in Game Three.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Johnson’s second goal, which extended the Lightning lead to 4-2.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Two goals and two assists. Tied a Lightning playoff record with four points in the game.
2.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Goal and assist.
3.Jonathan Drouin – Lightning. Assist.