TAMPA -- It's taken two decades, but the Tampa Bay Lightning have finally figured out how to beat the Detroit Red Wings.
Alex Killorn scored the go-ahead goal with 3:11 left in regulation and Ondrej Palat had two goals to help the Lightning beat the Red Wings 4-2 on Saturday night. The win was the fourth in as many games this season for the Lightning against Detroit this season. Prior to 2013-14, Tampa Bay was 5-24-2-1 against the Red Wings.
The Lightning (33-20-5) entered the night having lost two in a row and four of five. The win sent them into the break for the Sochi Olympics in second place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs -- and seven in front of the Red Wings (26-20-12), who own the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
The game was tied 2-2 after two periods and each team had chances before Killorn's tie-breaker.
"I'm not going to say it was a playoff atmosphere," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, "but I think both teams knew that a break was coming up and guys threw everything out there in the third period."
Killorn put the Lightning ahead when he slipped away from the defense, took a pass from Teddy Purcell and wristed a shot past Jimmy Howard for his 14th of the season.
"I was fortunate to get on the puck, bring it around the net and cycle it to Pyatt," Killorn said. "He threw it at the net, it bounced off Teddy's skate and it just landed on my tape."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock wasn't happy with his team's play on Killorn's goal.
"The third goal? That's sad. Come on," Babcock said. "I thought they competed harder in front of the net at the end of the game. And that's offensively and defensively. You can't have guys be more determined than you in front of your own net. It doesn't work like that."
Howard stopped Nikita Kucherov's penalty shot with 1:36 remaining, but Palat got his 14th of the season with 1:03 to play after the Red Wings pulled Howard for an extra attacker.
"We finished with a win and that was something we wanted to do," Lightning captain Martin St. Louis said. "It was a good team effort. Usually, when you score three, the way [goalie Ben] Bishop has played this year we're in a pretty good spot."
Bishop hadn't been able to finish two of his previous four starts due to nagging wrist injuries and was regarded as a doubtful starter on Saturday.
"He's in a lot of pain," Cooper said. "This is someone for whom the break is much needed. But Bishop has been our guy."
When did he decide to give Bishop the start?
"What time did the game start?" Cooper said. "Probably four minutes before that. It was literally a game-time decision."
Bishop responded with 31 saves for his 28th victory of the season. Howard stopped 24 shots.
Detroit got a power play at 5:55 of the third period when Purcell was penalized for tripping, but the Lightning wound up with the best opportunity. Howard preserved the tie by spearing a shot by Victor Hedman that was ticketed for the corner of the net. Moments later, Kucherov was left alone in front of the net but hit the post.
Detroit had a chance to go ahead when Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar came in 2-on-1, but Tater's shot went wide.
"It was a hard-played game," Zetterberg said. "It's tough. It was a big game for us with important points."
After a stretch of sustained pressure, the Red Wings jumped in front at 17:18 of the opening period when Daniel Alfredsson one-timed a passout by Pavel Datsyuk past Bishop for his 14th goal of the season. Alfredsson became the second-highest scoring Swedish player in NHL history with 1,143 points, passing retired Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Mats Sundin is tops with 1,349 points.
Datsyuk's assist was his 800th point of his career.
Palat tied the game at 1:44 of the second period with Detroit forward Tomas Jurco off for boarding when he got free in front of Howard and put home his own rebound. But Detroit went ahead again when Jurco backhanded the puck over Bishop's shoulder at 11:19 for his third of the season.
"I thought we were set up good to have a win here tonight," Babcock said. "I thought we started good and did a lot of good things but we weren't determined enough at the end to get it done."
Tom Pyatt, playing in his 10th game of the season, got the Lightning even again at 17:14 by backhanding the puck under Howard's arm for his first goal of the season. Sami Salo and J.T. Brown were credited with the assists.
"I was running out of space so I just had to get it on net. Somehow it got through. It's a bounce I'll take," said Pyatt, whose last NHL goal came April 4, 2013, against Carolina. "It's been a while. It's been a rough year for me, in and out of the lineup. It's hard to stay positive but a game like that feels good, especially going into the break."
Detroit was 0-for-3 on the power play and has failed to score in 14 advantages against the Lightning this season.
Datsyuk, playing in his second game after returning from a lower-body injury, did not take any faceoffs.
"He's obviously not ready," Babcock said. "If he wanted to [take draws] he would. We had him listed at center but he didn't play center. He'll have to determine whether he is ready or not."
Cooper had emphasized the importance of this game, and the win had provided some satisfaction.
"I think a little bit of a cloud was lifted," Cooper said. "I know it's only one game but the taste of winning lasts for two weeks, and that's a pretty good taste to have."