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Special teams will be key in Game 5

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Brad Richards' power-play goal in the third period pulled the Red Wings into a 2-2 tie with the Lightning in Game 2. It's the only PPG scored by Detroit in this series. (Photo by Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. – Special teams played a significant role for the road team in Game 4.

The Red Wings hope the same can come true when their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series returns to Amalie Arena for Game 5 tonight.

Three power-play goals propelled the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Game 4 win on Tuesday.

While referees have doled out a combined 237 minutes in penalties to the Red Wings and Lightning, the Wings haven’t managed to capitalize on their playoff-leading 35:17 of man-advantage ice time in the series.

“We got out-specialty teamed big time in Game 4,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday morning. “That’s the reason we lost the game. We had multiple opportunities in the first period. They had opportunities in the first period but it was a pretty even hockey game. At the end of the night they had out-specialty teamed us, so I can’t say that’s the case 100 percent but I can tell you if we win the specialty teams battle we’re gonna be in a heck of a lot better spot than if we lose it. If you lose it you make it real hard on yourself, especially on the road.”

The Wings’ lone power-play goal in these playoffs did come on the road. Brad Richards’ power-play goal in the third period of Game 2 is the only bright spot among 21 chances for Detroit.

Dylan Larkin, who led the team in shots on goal during the regular season, has been held to just six shots through the first four games against the Lightning. He said the club knows what to expect from Tampa Bay’s penalty kill but staying out of the penalty box may be the best case scenario if the Wings are to force a Game 6 back in Detroit on Sunday.

“I feel like we can't overanalyze it or put too much stress into that, that if our power play doesn't score we're not going to win,” Larkin said. “I think we got to take care of business 5 on 5 and stay out of the box. If we get a power-play goal, it'll be a bonus. I think we're happy with the way we play 5 on 5, I think our power play could do a better job gaining more momentum for our team. It's not do or die with the power play."

Though he doesn't have a point in the series, Valtteri Filppula has caused headaches for the Red Wings in other ways in the first four games. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

FILPPULA SHUTOUT: For the first time in his 10-season career, Lightning center Valtteri Filppula could finish a playoff series without a single point. That would put an end to his streak of producing points in 22 straight playoff series, dating back to his rookie season with the Red Wings in 2007.

Aside from a Stanley Cup ring from the 2008 championship, the 32-year-old Filppula has 23 goals and 72 points in 139 career postseason games.

Through the first four games against his former teammates, Filppula has no points with a minus-2 rating and eight shots on goal, including four in Game 3. Last spring’s seven-game series against Detroit, he had a goal and an assist with a plus-5 and 10 shots.

Despite the obvious lack of points, Filppula has been the top centerman in the series, winning more than 59 percent of his draws against the Wings. His 55 faceoff wins in the series is third-best in the playoffs, trailing only Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (64) and Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu (62).

“He just brings so much more to the table,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He plays on the power play. He plays on the penalty kill. On a team that we have not been great faceoff team all year he’s kind of risen to the occasion in big moments. When he’s coming out on the plus side of those it’s just big for your team.”

Filppula also had a huge defensive play late in Game 4 that prevented Larkin from completing a pass to Henrik Zetterberg for what likely would have been a tap in goal that could have given the Red Wings a lead.

“I saw Z coming in back door, and I think it was Filppula made a nice play to break it up,” Larkin said. “It was one if those (things). If it gets through it’s a tap in but that’s a good defensive play by Filppula.”

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