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Five keys for Red Wings vs. Lightning, Game 2

Detroit needs to slow Johnson line, get stars like Datsyuk, Zetterberg going against Tampa Bay

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TAMPA -- The Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series Friday at Amalie Arena (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-F, FS-D). The Lightning lead 1-0. 

Here are five keys for Game 2:

1. Contain the Johnson line: The line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat led the Lightning to victory against the Red Wings in the first round last year, with Johnson scoring six goals in the series. In Game 1 of the series this year, Johnson's line, with Alex Killorn in place of Palat, combined to score all the Lightning's goals in a 3-2 win. The Red Wings want to limit the line's rush chances.

"Slow them down," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Before they even get the puck we've got to be close right away. That way it will be harder for them to gain that speed. So we've got to be tighter all over the ice."

Video: DET@TBL, Gm1: Johnson sets up Kucherov's one-timer

2. Break loose: If and when the Red Wings make mistakes, the Johnson line needs to pounce. On the first goal of Game 1, Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn passed the puck up the left-wing boards. Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin stepped up when he should have stayed back and Killorn chipped the puck off the boards past him to create a 3-on-2 rush. Johnson fed Kucherov for a one-timer, which he blasted past goaltender Jimmy Howard.

"They came down on us and we broke it, and all of a sudden you've got three guys with speed," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Our guys are hard to catch and their [defensemen] had backed off. So it gave skill players a little bit of room. Those are the times you have to take advantage because it doesn't happen very often. It happens a couple times a game."

3. Attention to detail: Larkin wasn't alone in making mistakes. The Red Wings left Kucherov alone in front on the second Lightning goal, giving him time to jam at the puck not once but twice. On the winning goal they couldn't handle the Lightning forecheck. Red Wings forward Darren Helm lost the puck to Kucherov deep in the zone. Defensemen Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser left Killorn alone in front, where he deflected the puck past Howard.

"A lot of times we had the puck over and over and we kept giving it back to them," Kronwall said. "We've got to be a little bit more poised, talk a little bit more, help each out a little bit better than we did in the first game."

Video: DET@TBL, Gm1: Abdelkader tips home Quincey's shot

4. Get stars going: The Red Wings' top players aren't scoring. Henrik Zetterberg is scoreless in the past 12 games and has one goal in the past 25. Pavel Datsyuk has no goals in 11 games. Gustav Nyquist has one in 18. Tomas Tatar has one in 11. It would help if they cashed in on the power play. The Red Wings went 0-for-5 in 6:18 of power-play time in Game 1. They also need to get inside and off the perimeter.

"You can't make the puck go in," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "But you can control the process to give yourself opportunities."

5. Stay disciplined: These are not nasty teams but they are Atlantic Division rivals who faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, and some of these players faced each other in the 2013 Calder Cup Final. Game 1 featured 18 minors for penalties like slashing, roughing, charging and cross-checking.

"I think you see this in the beginning of every series," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "There's always a chippiness. It does seem as the series usually goes on it settles down a little bit. Everybody doesn't want to be in the box, obviously."

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