For the first time since January of 1994, the Lightning won a game in Detroit. But this one wasn’t just about the Bolts’ victory – it was also about the way they won it. The Lightning were determined to play a much less sloppy game than they did on Thursday against Edmonton. They were aiming for a clean performance against Detroit, one of the top teams in the league. And they succeeded. Resoundingly.
The Lightning only had a few choppy moments in this game and one of them happened in the opening minutes. The Bolts committed an early turnover in their own zone that resulted in Henrik Zetterburg’s first period goal. But immediately after that tally, the Lightning took control of the game. Tampa Bay strung together five or six excellent shifts in a row. They spent time in the Detroit end, managed the puck well, forced turnovers and fired shots on Red Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard. They eventually tied the game when Ryan Malone put in a rebound of his own wrap-around attempt. That sequence was a terrific response to an early deficit on the road. The Bolts didn’t let their foot off the gas pedal for the rest of the period, either. They outshot the Red Wings, 13-7, in the first and controlled most of the five-on-five play.
The second period was a different story, though, because the Lightning got into penalty trouble. Beginning with Andrej Sustr’s hooking minor at 5:09, the Bolts were shorthanded for all but 13 seconds of the next 7:37. Detroit even had 36 seconds worth of five-on-three power play time. Naturally, the Red Wings carried play during that stretch, but the Lightning got through those kills effectively. When they could, they pressured the Detroit puck carriers and attacked in the offensive zone. And when there were breakdowns, Ben Bishop made key saves. His best came late on the final kill, when he denied Todd Bertuzzi on a point blank deflection. Moments later, Steven Stamkos stormed out of the defensive zone and fired a shot wide of the Detroit net. As the penalty expired, Victor Hedman held the puck in the offensive zone and fed Stamkos for another chance. He roofed a snapshot over Howard and the Lightning had a 2-1 lead. It was a critical momentum swing and allowed Tampa Bay to take a lead into the third period.
The Lightning put on a five-on-five clinic in the final period. They had numerous chances to score an insurance goal, but Howard turned aside some of those scoring chances and others missed the net. Here’s just a sample of the third period looks they had when it was still a 2-1 game: Stamkos fired a shot off the post, Tyler Johnson was denied on a breakaway and put another shot just wide, Richard Panik roofed one over the net and Ondrej Palat cranked a shot wide of a partially open net. For the game, the Lightning had 16 shots attempts that missed the net and many of those came in the third period. While it’s preferable to have shots on net and not wide or high of the net, that stat is an indication of how the Lightning controlled play at both ends of the ice. With under four and a half minutes left, the Red Wings had recorded only three third period shots. But the fourth went in, when Zetterburg tied the game with a beautifully-placed shot over Bishop’s shoulder. As the Lightning have done throughout this season, though, they didn’t allow an opposition surge to snowball. They pushed back immediately and nearly won the game in the final minute of regulation when Johnson stole a puck in the Detroit zone and zipped a shot over the net.
The Bolts kept it up in OT, outshooting the Red Wings, 4-0. They won it when Panik outmuscled Kyle Quincey behind the Detroit net, stole the puck and centered to Teddy Purcell. Unlike the earlier attempts that had just missed the net, Purcell put his shot over Howard’s stick, but under the crossbar. The Lightning improved to 5-0 in OT/shootout games.
It’s great for the Lightning to post a win in a building that had given them so much trouble. Just as importantly, the Lightning outplayed Detroit for most of the night. Their speed gave the Red Wings trouble. Their tenacity forced turnovers. They limited their own turnovers and d-zone breakdowns. And their penalty killing was terrific. A well-deserved two points.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game: Purcell’s OT winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Teddy Purcell – Lightning. GWG in OT
- Ben Bishop – Lightning. 25 saves. Not as busy as on Thursday, but was outstanding during long PK stretch in second and made key saves on other Detroit scoring chances at various points during the game.
- Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Goal. Won 64% of faceoffs.