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Five reasons Red Wings were eliminated from playoffs

by Paul Harris /

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings lost a closely contested Eastern Conference First Round playoff series to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, capped by a 2-0 loss in Game 7.

Detroit played better as the series wore on. They were outshot 46-14 but won 3-2 in Game 1. Then goaltender Petr Mrazek shut out Tampa Bay in Games 3 and 5, and Detroit dominated Game 4 for all but the final 7:25 of the third period and overtime.

Mrazek's shutout in Game 5 gave the Red Wings a chance to win the series in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena, but the Lightning won 5-2 to force Game 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Detroit was without two of its regular defenseman Wednesday. Niklas Kronwall was suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for charging in Game 6, and Marek Zidlicky sat out because of an upper-body injury sustained in Game 6.

The Red Wings outshot the Lightning 31-17 in Game 7 but couldn't beat goaltender Ben Bishop. Defenseman Braydon Coburn's goal in the third period was all the Lightning needed; defenseman Anton Stralman added an empty-net goal with 1:18 remaining.

Games 6 and 7 were the only time in the series when a team won two games in a row.

Here are five reasons the Red Wings were eliminated::

1. An inability to contain Tyler Johnson -- Though the Red Wings held Lightning forward Steve Stamkos without a goal in the series, Johnson had six goals and one assist. He had three two-goal games, in Games 2, 4 and 6. Almost all his goals came at the worst time for the Red Wings.

He scored the first goal of Game 2, which sparked the Lightning to a 5-1 victory. In Game 4 he scored the Lightning's first goal with 5:26 left in regulation, set up Ondrej Palat's game-tying goal with 1:17 left, and then scored 2:25 into overtime for a 3-2 Lightning win.

In Game 6, with the Lightning facing elimination, Johnson scored the first goal at 3:47 of the first period. His goal 9:09 into the second held up as the game-winner in a 5-2 victory.

2. Not cashing in on scoring chances in Game 7 -- Detroit had numerous chances to get the first goal in Game 7 but couldn't beat Bishop. The three best came in the second period.

The first came about midway through the second when forward Drew Miller beat Bishop to a loose puck in the high slot. Miller chipped a shot over the diving goaltender but the puck sailed wide of the net.

With about two minutes left, forward Tomas Tatar broke in on Bishop but the puck slid off his stick when Tatar tried to switch it to his backhand. Just before the period ended, forward Darren Helm had an open look from the bottom of the left circle on the rush but his shot went wide.

3. Defensive breakdowns -- Most of Tampa Bay's goals throughout the series came when Detroit either blew a defensive assignment, turned over the puck, or had a bad line change.

Johnson's second goal in Game 1 came when Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg lost the puck in the Detroit end and Kronwall fell racing back to keep up with Johnson. An offensive-zone turnover by the Red Wings allowed Stralman to get Johnson going with speed for his first goal in Game 4, and Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser's inability to hold a puck in at the Lightning blue line started a 3-on-1 rush in overtime that Johnson capped.

Johnson's second goal in Game 6 came when Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith turned over the puck at the Lightning blue line. And the Red Wings' hopes in Game 7 ended when defenseman Jakub Kindl couldn't hold Stralman's clearing attempt at the Lightning blue line and the puck went into an empty net.

4. Inability to close the deal -- Detroit was 5:26 from taking a 3-1 lead in Game 4 before they allowed Tampa Bay to come back.

The Red Wings had a chance to win the series in Game 6 at home but fell behind early and lost.

5. An inability to control the Lightning's speed -- The Red Wings did a good job for most of the series getting pucks deep in the Lightning zone, pressuring their defensemen and not allowing the Lightning to transition the puck and use their speed on the rush, but Detroit failed to do that at key times.

Two prime examples came late in Game 4 when Detroit was up 2-0. Johnson was able to rush the puck down the left wing, cut around a Red Wings defenseman and beat Mrazek to make it 2-1. And 1:17 later, Johnson sped down the other wing, cut to the net and passed to Palat in front, who had slipped between Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson in the slot and scored to tie the game.

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