The Lightning played very well in this game and were deserving of their sixth consecutive win. Their performance was even more impressive given the fact that they were skating in the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent.
With the exception of a portion of the third period, the Lightning’s five-on-five play was superb. Through the first 40 minutes, the Bolts held Detroit to only three five-on-five shots. It’s true that the teams combined for nine power play opportunities in those first two periods, so there was a lot of special teams action. But still, the Lightning’s five-on-five “structure” was very sound. It translated to very few sustained Detroit shifts in the Tampa Bay zone. At the other end, the Lightning were able to put pressure on the Wings, not only off the rush but also once the puck was in the Detroit zone.
But as I just mentioned, the game was not played entirely five-on-five. And for the second straight night, the Lightning struggled on the penalty kill. In Columbus on Saturday, the Bolts yielded a season-high three power play goals. They let in two more against the Red Wings. Special teams tend to go through hot and cold stretches over the course of a long season, but the Lightning do want to tighten up their penalty killing, which had yielded only six goals through the first 13 games. While giving credit to the opposition (Detroit’s two power play goals came off hard, well-placed shots), the Lightning know they will need to be better on the PK when they face Chicago on Tuesday.
Fortunately for the Lightning, their power play also did well over the weekend. They netted two PPG against the Blue Jackets and added one more in this game versus the Wings. It came during a long five-on-three in the first period. One of the best parts of the Lightning’s power play over the weekend was how much Steven Stamkos was looking to shoot the puck. His slapshot on Saturday led to Anton Stralman’s rebound goal and on Sunday, he blistered a slapper past Jimmy Howard’s glove, tying the game at one.
Early in the second period, Stamkos nearly scored on an in-alone chance and then, later on the same shift, he whistled a wrist shot off the post and in, giving the Bolts a 2-1 lead. Stamkos, who admitted earlier in the week that he felt he could be playing better in some of the Lightning’s recent games, was particularly dynamic in this game.
Nearly four minutes later, more good structure led to the third Lightning goal. Ondrej Palat stole the puck inside the Lightning zone, denying a Red Wings rush. He carried it into the Detroit end and fed Tyler Johnson for a one-timer past Howard’s glove.
But another Lightning penalty yielded a second Detroit power play goal. So despite limiting the Wings to just those three five-on-five shots through 40 minutes, the Lightning had to settle for only a one-goal lead after two periods.
The Wings’ best period was the third. They forechecked more intensely and were able to force the Bolts into some defensive zone turnovers. Eventually, Gus Nyquist tied the score, finishing a high shot after putting on a terrific individual stick-handling display.
That goal came with just over 11 minutes left. And while Detroit had some other effective offensive zone shifts through the end of regulation, so did the Lightning. It was good to see that the Lightning didn’t let this game slip away, despite surrendering a two-goal lead and being the team that had played and traveled the night before. Instead, the Bolts pushed back and had several good looks on Howard down the stretch.
In overtime, Detroit carried most of the play. But Ben Bishop robbed Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall on two point-blank chances, helping the Lightning extend the game. He then made three more saves in the shootout. Those stops, along with Ryan Callahan’s goal in the first round, were enough to secure another Lightning win. As I mentioned in the opening sentence, it was well-deserved.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Callahan’s winning shootout goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Ryan Callahan – Lightning. Two assists and GWG in SO.
3.Gus Nyquist – Red Wings. Goal and assist.