There were some frustrating aspects to this game for the Lightning. The officiating was perplexing – power play chances were 7-3 in favor of Detroit and there were a few obvious calls on the Red Wings that were missed. Also, Detroit scored a fluky goal late in the second period to go up, 2-0. But ultimately, the Lightning didn’t play well enough to win this game – and the Red Wings did. Down 2-0 in the series, Detroit was desperate to get this game and the Red Wings played like it.
When the Red Wings are on their game, they are playing a sound, structured defensive style that limits the opposition’s time and space. The Lightning saw that first-hand in last year’s playoff series as well as the two games they played in Detroit earlier this year. The Red Wings deserve credit for defending as well as they did. They also, quite simply, competed harder than the Lightning, especially after the first period. That high compete level helped the Red Wings win most of the puck battles and enjoy the majority of the puck possession.
On the Lightning side, they didn’t do enough to get pucks to the Detroit net. They had nine first period shots, but only seven for the rest of the game. It’s true that the Red Wings collapsed their defenders to the front of their net, so the Lightning had a hard time getting their shots through to Petr Mrazek. But the Lightning also bear responsibility for the low shot total. They didn’t have the puck enough and weren’t committed to making Mrazek work. It was Mrazek’s third playoff shutout in the last two seasons against the Lightning, but this was a quiet night for him. He only had to make a couple of tough saves all evening. This will go down as a shutout for Mrazek, but it was really more of a team shutout win for the Red Wings.
The Detroit victory sets up an important Game Four on Tuesday. With a win, the Lightning would still take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. But they’ll need to do a better job of matching Detroit’s compete level. They’ll look to execute better and have more of a shooting mentality. Otherwise, the Red Wings will be poised to win a game similar to the one we saw tonight.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
The first goal, scored by Andreas Athanasiou, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Henrik Zetterberg – Red Wings. Goal.
2.Brendan Smith – Red Wings. Strong defensive game.
3.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 28 saves.