|Petr Mrazek made this first-period save on Tampa Bay's Cedric Paquette. But the Lightning center followed up on the rebound, scoring his first of three goals Thursday. (Photo by Getty Images) |
TAMPA, Fla. – The Red Wings were well aware that Thursday’s game was a litmus test of sorts.
Unfortunately, the outcome didn’t provide many positive results.
The Lightning scored four unanswered goals – including three times in the second period – to defeat Detroit 5-1, snapping the Red Wings’ six-game winning streak before a sold-out Amalie Arena.
“Let’s be honest. It (the puck) was in the net every time they shot it and so you’re down by, not quite a touchdown, but a chunk right off the get-go,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We just had a good run here. We won six in a row. We got spanked here tonight. Let’s get back, have a practice tomorrow, get regrouped.”
More importantly the loss allowed the Lightning (66 points) to leapfrog the Red Wings by one point to take over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the Eastern Conference.
“When you are winning a lot of games, sometimes you start to cheat a little bit and that’s when you go away from your structure and teams will score on you,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’ve got to learn from this and get back to playing the way we should and we’ll be fine.”
The Red Wings entered Thursday’s game leading the league in second-period goal differential (plus-21), but the Lightning scored three times – on goals by Steven Stamkos, Cedric Paquette and Mark Barberio – to increase their lead by four goals through 40 minutes.
The win was the Lightning’s ninth straight at home, which establishes a new franchise home record.
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but Zetterberg didn’t think the Red Wings played horrible through the first 20 minutes.
“We came out and played good,” he said. “Then the second and third we can just scratch from our memory. It didn’t go our way. They came out and scored three goals, one shorthanded. Then in the third it’s game over.”
Paquette, a 21-year-old rookie center, also scored twice in the first period to collect his first career hat trick. The Red Wings had gone 360 regular-season games without allowing a hat trick, dating to March 7, 2010.
Despite their longest winning streak of the season, the Wings have surrendered four or more goals in four straight games, which is something that hasn’t happened since Dec. 17-23, 2010 when they posted a 1-2-1 record.
For the second time in two weeks, goalie Petr Mrazek was pulled from a game. He lasted two periods, making just 10 saves while allowing all five Lightning goals. He has now started nine straight games while filling in for injured goalies Jimmy Howard (groin) and Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder).
“You got to give him credit,” Babcock said of his rookie third-string goalie. “He’s a kid who’s 10-4-1. He still had great moxie. He’s got NHL moxie, his skill level. He’s still got to work at his skill level. He’s a pup, he’s a kid. When you think about it Howie spent five years in the minors. That’s just the process for goaltending. … But his moxie is so good, but we got to get his skill level. He’s got to continue to battle and work on the details of his game and then it’ll show more consistent in the game.”
Tom McCollum came in at the start of the third period and made 17 saves. He earned his first career win in relief against Buffalo on Jan. 18.
“I was pretty busy in the third period,” said McCollum, who has made two relief appearances for the Wings this season. “The guys did a pretty good job of keeping their shots to the outside and I could see a lot of them clean, so it makes it easier for me.”
Darren Helm’s ninth goal of the season was the Wings’ lone shining moment, tying the game at 11:59 of the first period. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and center Pavel Datsyuk picked up assists on the goal. Ericsson has points in three straight games for the second time in his career, and the first time since Oct. 24-29, 2010.
The Red Wings will benefit from a short memory as it doesn’t get any easier for them as they welcome the New York Islanders to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. The Islanders (65 points), who dropped a 5-2 decision at home Thursday to the Boston Bruins, are tied with Detroit for second place in the East.
“I’m not looking to blame anyone because what we do here is we win together and we lose together and we move on,” Babcock said. “So I’ll watch the game (replay) and get on with it.”