TAMPA, Fla. – If the Red Wings are to advance beyond their first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning they need to do so as road warriors.
It’s become a common theme for the Wings. Detroit has started each of the past six playoff series away from the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings face the defending Eastern Conference champion Lightning in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. Game 1 of their first-round series is tonight at Amalie Arena.
This is the seventh straight series that the Red Wings will begin on the road.
While the Wings have lost five of those six series, the bright side is they have returned home following Game 2 series splits with Nashville (2012), Anaheim, Chicago (2013), Boston (2014) and Tampa Bay (2015).
The Wings headed home last season with the series with the Lightning tied 1-1 after stealing Game 1 with a 3-2 victory at Amalie Arena.
Now they’ll have to steal another Game 1 from the Lightning.
“It's great that we're in, it's great that we were able to extend it to 25 years but now it's time to get to work, have some fun out there and go steal a game,” goalie Jimmy Howard said earlier in the week.
On the flip side, the three times the Lightning has had home-ice advantage in the playoffs since 2014 they’ve gone on the road with a split or worse.
Last spring, in their only other playoff meeting, the Lighting defeated Detroit a seven-game series, when goalie Ben Bishop posted a 31-save performance in a 2-0 Game 7 victory.
This season, the 6-foot-7 Bishop led the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and ranked second with a .926 save percentage. In last spring's playoff matchup he stopped 153 of 166 shots he faced to finish with a 1.87 GAA and a .922 save percentage against the Red Wings.
Home ice meant everything during the Wings-Lightning four-game regular-season series with each team winning twice at home.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 437-200 – that’s a 68.6 winning percentage.
Wednesday morning coach Jeff Blashill called the regular season a dress rehearsal for the playoffs.
It was a fitting analogy for the Red Wings’ first-period struggles when faced with some adversity.
Detroit had a good start to Game 1. It began the game with a 6-0 edge in shots on goal. Unfortunately, all of its shots came from the outside where Bishop could easily track the puck.
It took some time for the Lightning to strike but when they did the Wings seemed to fall back on their heels for much of the second half of the period.
Tyler Johnson, who was a game-time decision with an upper-body injury sustained in the season-finale at Montreal last Saturday, set up the first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Spokane, Wash., native blew through the neutral zone, and while cutting to the middle crossed the blue line and found linemate Nikita Kucherov for a one-timer from the left face-off circle. Howard wasn’t quick enough with his left glove hand to snag Kucherov’s rocket that sailed out of the net as fast as it entered it.
Puck possession was a problem for the Wings. The Lightning dominated the face-off circle early on, winning 11 straight draws. The Wings won just six of 20 first-period faceoffs.
TAMPA BAY 1, DETROIT 0
SCORING: 1. TBL, Kucherov (Johnson, Killorn), 6:23).
PENALTIES: 1. TBL, Sustr (tripping), 10:47; 2. DET, Kronwall (slashing), 11:12; 3. DET, DeKeyser (high-stick), 19:50; 4. TBL, Boyle (charging), 20:00.
SHOTS: Detroit 13, Tampa Bay 8.
The shots looked harmless enough but the slappers by Mike Green and Kyle Quincey – basically from the same spot on the ice near the half wall above the right face-off circle – found the back of the Lightning net to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
Bishop was screened on both goals and hit something in front. Quincey’s shot was redirected by Abdelkader who was credited with his sixth career playoff goal.
Both goalies came up with splendid saves midway through the period. First, Bishop kept the Lightning within one goal when he made an outstanding left pad save on Brad Richards. On the same shift, Howard stoned Alex Killorn.
But moments later the Lightning tied things up when Kucherov scored his second goal of the game. The Russian forward pushed a rebound between Howard’s legs.
Things heated up late in the period when Braydon Coburn went after Dylan Larkin. The Lightning’s 6-foot-5 defenseman outweighs the Wings’ rookie by 36 pounds. Danny DeKeyser came to Larkin’s defense and engaged Coburn behind the Red Wings’ net. In all, 121 minutes in penalties were handed out, including roughing minors to DeKeyser, Larkin and Darren Helm. For his role in the skirmish, Coburn was assessed a double-minor for roughing.
DETROIT 2, TAMPA BAY 2
SCORING: 1. DET, Green (DeKeyser, Tatar), 2:11; 2. Abdelkader (Quincey), 4:07; 3. TBL, Kucherov (Coburn, Nesterov), 9:29.
PENALTIES: 1. TBL, Drouin (roughing) 6:34; 2. TBL, Killorn (interference), 11:42;
3. TBL, Coburn (double roughing), 11:42; 4. DET, Helm (roughing), 11:42; 5. DET, DeKeyser (roughing), 11:42; 6. DET, Larkin (roughing), 11:42; 7. TBL, Garrison (hooking), 13:49; 8. DET, Abdelkader (slashing), 15:32.
SHOTS: Detroit 13 (26), Tampa Bay 12 (20).
Pressure by the Red Wings in the offensive zone led to their fifth power play of the game.
While Bishop was making huge stops on Pavel Datsyuk and Andreas Athanasiou, the Lightning countered with a minor infraction when Jonathan Drouin cross-checked Athanasiou in the back, sending the Wings’ rookie face first to the ice. It was Drouin’s second minor penalty of the night.
However, the Wings never got anything going on their man advantage.
The Lightning thought they regained the lead on a goal by Victor Hedman at 6:55. But Drouin was clearly offsides and the Situation Room in Toronto overturned the scoring play on video replay.
Here is an explanation emailed by the league:
At 6:55 of the third period in the Red Wings/Lightning game, Detroit requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Tampa Bay was off-side prior to Victor Hedman’s goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Linesman determined that Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin was off-side prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Linesman, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”
Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Tampa Bay Lightning.
The clock is re-set to show 13:08 (6:52 elapsed time), when the off-side infraction occurred.
Since the Coach’s Challenge resulted in the original call being overturned, the Detroit Red Wings retain their time-out.
The Wings were unable to gain momentum from Tampa Bay’s disallowed goal. Instead, it was the Lightning, who turned up the pressure and got the goal back two minutes later when a turnover deep in the Wings’ zone led to Alex Killorn’s goal.
With 1:40 left the Wings lifted Howard for a sixth attacker, and 33 seconds later they used their timeout with a faceoff set to Bishop’s left. After Richards held the puck into the zone and Glendening and Green had great chances but missed.
The loss is the Wings’ 21st one-goal defeat of the season. They had a 27-9-11 record in such outcomes during the regular season.
The Wings-Lightning series will resume Friday at Amalie Arena with Game 2 at 7 p.m.
TAMPA BAY 3, DETROIT 2
SCORING: 1. TBL, Killorn (Johnson, Kucherov), 8:52;
PENALTIES: 1. TBL, Drouin (cross-checking), 2:50; 2. DET, Abdelkader (interference), 11:42; 3. DET, Abdelkader (roughing), 19:49; 4. TBL, Palat (roughing), 19:49; 5. DET, Zetterberg (charging), 20:00..
SHOTS: Detroit 10 (36), Tampa Bay 14 (34).