This was going to be a challenging game for the Lightning. They were finishing up a back-to-back against a rested opponent. True, they had played the previous afternoon, not the night before, so they had arrived in Detroit around dinnertime on Monday. But the Red Wings were the fresher team, not having played since last Saturday. They were facing a motivated opponent, one still stinging from last year’s dramatic seven-game playoff series defeat. And most of all, the Lightning were taking on an excellent hockey team. The Red Wings were very good last year and based on their offeseason additions, could be even better this season.
Ultimately, the Lightning didn’t play well enough to win this game. They had a solid first period, but couldn’t maintain it for the final 40 minutes. Specifically, the Lightning had problems with puck management in the defensive zone. As a result, the Lightning spent a good portion of the second and third periods defending in their own zone. That’s not a formula for success, especially when you are the team that played the previous day.
The first period, however, was a good one for the Bolts. Until the final couple of minutes of the frame, the Lightning carried much of the puck possession. Ondrej Palat had a good scoring chance from the slot and Erik Condra nearly scored off the rush after he stole the puck at center ice. At the other end, the Red Wings were quiet for much of the period. Their two best even-strength chances came from Gus Nyquist, who had chances from the slot. During a power play late in the period, though, the Red Wings did apply consistent pressure. They had two shots during the man advantage, plus some other opportunities that missed the net. But the period ended in a scoreless tie.
The Lightning’s puck management issues began in the second period. Faceoffs have been a concern for the Lightning during the first three games (they had lost a majority of faceoffs in each of those contests). The Lightning did much better on draws in this game (they won 54%), especially in the defensive zone. But after winning many of those d-zone faceoffs, the Lightning struggled to execute clears. During one such sequence late in the period, the Lightning, after icing the puck, won the ensuing faceoff. But they turned the puck over and ended up taking a penalty. Nyquist scored on the power play at 17:52 to break the scoreless tie and give Detroit a lead.
Despite not having the puck much in the second, the Lightning did have some looks to score before Nyquist’s goal. Vladdy Namestnikov broke in on a two-on-one, but Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard made the save on Namestnikov’s shot. Later, Steven Stamkos rang a shot off the post. But as a whole, the second period was a rough one for the Bolts, who entered the third period trailing for the first time this year.
The Lightning had two early third period power play chances, but couldn’t tie the score. Then, with eight minutes gone in the frame, the Lightning committed mulitple turnovers on a shift that began with a d-zone faceoff win. Eventually, Henrik Zetterberg roofed a shot from the slot over Ben Bishop’s glove to extend the Detroit lead.
The Lightning’s best stretch in the third period occurred a couple of minutes later. They forced a couple of turnovers in the Detroit zone and applied pressure. The Red Wings eventually iced the puck. Moments after the faceoff, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard covered the puck, so the Wings could change players. But they never cleared the zone. Steven Stamkos won the next faceoff and Jonathan Drouin set up Ryan Callahan in the high slot. Callahan finished his shot over Howard’s glove, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
On the next shift, the Lightning almost tied the score. Callahan and Drouin had a two-on-one and Drouin maneuvered the puck behind the net, getting Howard out of position. But before Drouin could tuck the puck back around the post, Zetterberg hustled in to break up the attempt. Then, with less than two minutes left, Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey iced the game with an empty-netter.
The Red Wings, as we saw in last year’s playoff series, play a sound, structured game. They make it tough on the opposition to generate scoring chances – and that was the case in this game for the Lightning. But the Bolts, after a good start, were not crisp enough in their execution over the final 40 minutes and this was also a factor in the outcome.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Nyquist’s PPG, which broke the scoreless tie late in the second period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Henrik Zetterberg – Red Wings. GWG, assist.
2.Gus Nyquist – Red Wings. PPG.
3.Kyle Quincey – Red Wings. ENG, assist.