It’s a part of every player’s life when the puck drops in a Stanley Cup playoff game.
Every game, every period, every shift matters for the teams fortunate to fight for the trophy that only one can hoist at the end of a long, combative postseason.
“It’s the nature of the playoffs series and probably the nature within games,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.
The stresses facing the Red Wings tonight is they don’t want to return home in a 0-2 series deficit to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Dropping the first two games of any series is uncustomary for the Red Wings. During their remarkable playoff streak of 25-straight seasons, Detroit has a 2-7 series record when trailing 0-2 in a best-of-seven matchup. Of course, the last time they won such a series Nicklas Lidstrom scored a goal from center ice in Vancouver that turned that first-round series around and propelled the Wings to the 2002 Stanley Cup.
On four separate occasions this season the Wings have endured losing streaks of three-straight games in regulation. They’d like to avoid their first four-game drought with a win tonight in Game 2.
“One thing that our team has done a real good job at throughout their careers, and certainly this team in general, is we’ve stayed steady on the rudder,” Blashill said. “We’ve been pretty even keeled. We haven’t had long, long losing stretches. We’ve reacted well down the stretch to tough losses. We had a tough loss against Pittsburgh. We came back and played real well. We had a tough loss in Montreal and came back and won the next game. So I think we’ve stayed even keeled and I think we have a group of veterans that know how to do that.”
It might only be the second game between the Red Wings and Lightning but already there’s an intensity and animosity percolating in this series. Blashill would like to see his club play with a certain psychology tonight.
“Gotta make sure that we have what I talked about the other day about the next-shift mentality,” he said. “Whether you have success on the prior shift or you have a tough shift you gotta make sure you put it behind you and you go out and have a great next shift. You can’t do anything about what’s been done in the past. You can move forward, so I would say it’s something that’s extremely important, being able to handle momentum, especially on the road in other teams’ buildings. This building was loud and it will be real important tonight that we have a great next-shift mentality, especially when you get scored on.”
Mike Green and Justin Abdelkader scored for the Wings in Game 1. Green became just the fifth different Wings' defenseman to score a playoff goal since 2012. Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith (2) and Jakub Kindl have accounted for the other five goals since Lidstrom retired.
Much like Game 1, the Red Wings had a solid start to Game 2, but it was the Lightning that took a lead on the scoreboard into the first intermission.
The Red Wings got an early gift when Alex Killorn was given a two-minute minor for holding Jonathan Ericsson deep in Detroit’s defensive zone. But Detroit’s power play managed just one shot on goal – a six-footer by Henrik Zetterberg – that was easily stopped by Ben Bishop, who saw it all the way.
To no surprise, the intensity and pace escalated as the period wore on.
Midway through the period, Detroit held a 7-4 edge in shots but it was the Lightning who had a 4-0 advantage in scoring chances. Three of the four Lightning chances were unbelievable close to giving the home team an early lead but Jimmy Howard came up big, particularly on a rebounding opportunity by forward Mike Blunden at 6:37.
From that point on the Lightning attacked the Detroit zone in waves. Moments after Blunden’s chance, the Tyler Johnson line ratcheted up the pace when Nikita Kucherov had a chance but the Russian forward ended up in the net behind Howard instead of the puck.
Luke Glendening had perhaps the Wings’ biggest chance, but he fanned on a shot from in front of the blue paint with under 11 minutes to go in the period.
Howard was outstanding, keeping the Wings in the first period. The Lightning only got to the veteran goalie on a 5-on-3 power play when Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader went to the penalty box 27-seconds apart.
Kucherov’s third goal of the series gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 15:17. His goal came from almost exactly the same spot on the ice as his first goal in Game 1. The first-period goal was the first power-play goal of the series.
TAMPA BAY 1, DETROIT 0
SCORING: 1. TBL, Kucherov PPG (Hedman, Johnson), 15:17.
PENALTIES: 1. TBL, Killorn (holding), 2:00; 2. DET, Quincey (roughing), 11:11; 3. DET, Nyquist (slashing), 14:20; 4. DET, Abdelkader (tripping), 14:47.
SHOTS: Detroit 15, Tampa Bay 12.
The Lightning picked up where they left off causing pressure in the Red Wings’ end. That led to a Dylan Larkin hooking penalty.
Tampa Bay got little in terms of momentum on the ensuing man advantage.
Once his penalty expired, Larkin jumped out of the penalty box to join a rush that led to the rookie scoring his first postseason goal on his first-ever shot on goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Larkin raced through the attacking zone and fired a low shot that beat Bishop five-hole at 3:30.
But just over three minutes later, the Lightning regained a one-goal lead when center Brian Boyle took a drop pass from Jonathan Drouin in the slot, and using Mike Green as a screen, whistled a shot behind Howard.
Pavel Datsyuk didn’t finish the second period. It appeared the Red Wings’ center was hit in the face and may have lost a tooth during a skirmish in the corner to the left of the Lightning’s net. Datsyuk retaliated against Victor Hedman and picked up a roughing minor to boot. Tomas Tatar served Datsyuk’s penalty.
Tempers flared moments later when Danny DeKeyser hit Ondrej Palat behind the Wings’ net. Pushing and shoving ensued, resulting in Riley Sheahan and Drouin earning roughing penalties.
Palat went to the Lightning dressing room and did not return for the rest of the period.
TAMPA BAY 2, DETROIT 1
SCORING: 1. DET, Larkin (Ericsson, Kronwall), 3:30; 2. Boyle (Drouin, Coburn), 6:46.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Larkin (hooking), 1:12; 2. DET, Datsyuk (roughing), 10:21; 3. DET, Sheahan (roughing), 11:50; 4. TBL, Hedman (unsportsman-like), 11:50; 5. TBL, Drouin (roughing), 11:50; 6. TBL, Hedman (hooking), 14:03; 7. TBL, Boyle (interference), 17:35.
SHOTS: Detroit 8 (23), Tampa Bay 9 (21).
Good puck movement by the Wings on the first power play of the third period, their sixth of the game. Nyquist had a golden chance from the right side of the net, but Bishop made an outstanding save, kicking out a rebound to Ryan Callahan, who cleared the puck out of the zone.
The Wings finally scored on the power play when Brad Richards used a Sheahan screen in front of Bishop to tie the game at 2-2. It was Detroit’s first power-play goal in the playoffs since Tomas Tatar scored in the second period of Game 6 against the Lighting last spring.
It took just four minutes for Tampa Bay to retake the lead when Johnson banged in a loose puck with Howard out of position near the far post.
Green had a good chance to get the Red Wings even late in the period. The Wings’ defenseman coasted into the slot, where he pulled the puck back away from a Lightning defender and flicked a high shot on Bishop who made a save with his right shoulder with 7:05 left.
The Johnson line struck again when Kucherov zipped around the Wings net and made a centering pass out front of Johnson (four points tonight) who fired a one-timer behind Howard. The goal was Johnson’s second of the night, second of the series, and the eighth postseason tally against Detroit since last April.
Killorn capped the scoring, banking in an empty-net goal with 2:44 left.
With less than a minute remaining, Richards hit Andrej Sustr in front of the Tampa Bay net. Nesterov came to his teammate’s defense before others got involved and punches were thrown and fighting majors were assessed to Abdelkader, Richards, Blunden and Nesterov.
The Red Wings return home down 0-2 in the series. It’s the first time Detroit has lost the first two games of a series since the 2011Western Conference semifinals against San Jose.
The Eastern Conference first-round series now heads to Detroit, where the Red Wings will host the Lightning in Game 3 Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT.
TAMPA BAY 5, DETROIT 2
SCORING: 1. DET, Richards PPG (Green, Tatar), 4:27; 2. TBL, Johnson (Killorn), 6:32; 3. TBL, Johnson (Kucherov, Garrison), 14:48; 4. TBL, Killorn ENG (Carle, Johnson), 17:16.
PENALTIES: 1. TBL, Nesterov (high-sticking), 2:53; 2. DET, Tatar (holding the stick), 6:57; 3. DET, Abdelkader (fighting, game misconduct), 19:06; 4. DET, Richards (slashing, fighting), 19:06; 5. TBL, Nesterov (high-sticking, fighting), 19:06; 6. TBL, Blunden (roughing), 19:06; 7. DET, Marchenko (10-min misconduct), 19:06; 8. DET, Larkin (slashing, 10-min misconduct), 19:06; 9. DET, Green (10-min misconduct), 19:06; 10. TBL, Callahan (roughing, 10-min misconduct), 19:06; 11. TBL, Paquette (10-min misconduct), 19:06; 12. TBL, Sustr (10-min misconduct), 19:06.
SHOTS: Detroit 9 (32), Tampa Bay 10 (31).