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Red Wings' new line stymies Lightning scorers

Glendening, Abdelkader, Sheahan clamp down on Killorn, Johnson, Kucherov in Game 3 win

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- The names were printed on the stairs to the Gordie Howe Entrance at Joe Louis Arena, along with a logo celebrating the Detroit Red Wings' 25-season streak in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They greeted the players as they returned home after two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the fans as they arrived for Game 3 of this Eastern Conference First Round series Sunday.

For every Shanahan, there was a Sheahan. For every Yzerman, there was an Ysebaert. Many of the names that have been involved in the streak were represented, as many as the team could fit, and it made for a powerful symbol.

That's what it takes to make the playoffs and to win in them: stars and support players, climbing together. And that's what it took for the Red Wings to defeat the Lightning 2-0 and get to within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series on another raucous spring night at The Joe.

"I grew up obviously a huge Wings fan," said Luke Glendening, who was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and saw the names like many of his teammates when he entered the players' parking lot to the left of the stairs. "I don't know if my name is on there, but if it is, it's pretty cool to be etched or painted on."

Glendening's name is on the stairs all right, and he etched his name onto the score sheet as the game's First Star on Sunday even though he didn't have a point. This was a night for names like Glendening and Abdelkader, Sheahan and Athanasiou, and Smith and Mrazek, as well as names like Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

With the crowd roaring, with octopuses flying, Glendening shut down the Tyler Johnson line as he did for stretches of these teams' first-round series last year.

Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn combined for seven of the Lightning's eight goals in the first two games of this series.

But Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill had the last change at home. He shuffled his lines and put Glendening with Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan for the first time this season. The result: The Johnson line had zero shots on goal and was assessed four minor penalties.

Video: TBL@DET, Gm3: Zetterberg's deflection doubles lead

Glendening didn't shadow Johnson. Hockey doesn't work like that today.

"You've got to play within the system," Glendening said. "You can't follow a guy around all night."

Glendening won faceoffs. He, Abdelkader and Sheahan possessed the puck. When they didn't have the puck, they pressured to get it back. They forced Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn to take penalties. They never let up.

"Just keep it simple," Abdelkader said. "Keep the plays in front of us. I think we're a line that, once we get in the offensive zone, we can hang on to pucks. Be heavy and be hard on those guys. I think we need to continue that. We're at home. We get the matchups we want. It can really be a good thing for us."

Andreas Athanasiou, 21, has played 37 regular-season and three playoff games in the NHL. He hasn't earned big minutes from Blashill yet. But he has made a big impact in limited minutes, showing oh-wow-did-you-see-that speed and skill at times.

In the first period Sunday, he dropped jaws all over The Joe - and a jock strap on the ice. He rushed up the left wing. Side by side with Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison, he hit the brakes and spun. As Garrison fell to his knees, he spun again in front of Garrison, put the puck on his forehand and shot. He missed the net. He was probably dizzy.

"I think it was my first time [trying that move]," Athanasiou said. "I thought I'd try it out, and it worked out partially. Unfortunately, it didn't go in."

Athanasiou put one in later, though, one-timing a rolling puck from the left circle past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on the short side, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead in the second period and raising the volume at The Joe.

Video: TBL@DET, Gm3: Athanasiou opens the scoring in 2nd

It was already loud thanks to Brendan Smith, who had been a healthy scratch but entered the lineup with a bang, rocking Lightning forward Cedric Paquette with a hit early in the first period and setting the tone. Smith played well all night. Most every Detroit player did.

Petr Mrazek replaced Jimmy Howard in goal for the Red Wings, and he shut out the Lightning, as he did twice in seven games in the first round last year. But he didn't have to make that many saves. The Red Wings outshot the Lightning 30-16 and dominated them in even-strength shot attempts 43-23.

"I know they switched goaltenders," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "But I don't even know if they needed a goaltender tonight, to be honest."

Things can change fast in the playoffs. The Johnson line looked unstoppable and secondary scoring didn't seem like an issue for the Lightning in the first two games. Suddenly, the Johnson line can't get a puck on net and the Lightning miss captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) again.

"You can't just sit here and depend on three guys to score every night," Cooper said. "That's just not how it works."
That's right. It takes stars and support players, climbing together.

But as one of the names on those stairs to the Gordie Howe Entrance will tell you, the climb is long.

"It's just one game," Glendening said.

For the Red Wings, this was but a first step.

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