A pair of one-goal comebacks and sensational goaltending were the key factors in the Lightning maintaining their ongoing dominance of the Red Wings this season (now 4-0-0) and their place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings.
"A win before the break puts everyone in a good mood." - Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop
With this being the last game before the Olympic break, well past the standard (approximate) halfway point when all-star festivities would normally take place and with division rivals Montreal and Toronto right behind, this game took on more significance and intensity than one might expect from a typical "last day of school" scenario.
"I'm not going to say it's a playoff atmosphere but I think both teams knew that the break was coming up, so guys threw everything out there during the last period." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Bishop was the star of the game, stopping 31 of 33 shots. He left the last game he played in on Thursday against Toronto after two periods with an upper body injury.
"Well, the decision was 'is Bish going to take warm ups'. He is in a lot of pain, that kid. This is someone too that (for whom) the break is much-needed. But Bish has been our guy." - Cooper
Detroit tallied the first goal at 17:18 of the first, with Daniel Alfredsson scoring on an assist from Pavel Datsyuk. The period would end with Detroit holding that 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings regained the lead at 11:19, immediately after the Lightning fought off a power play. With tired penalty killers still on the ice, Tomas Jurco scored, getting assists from Riley Shehan and Danny Dekeyser.
Just under six minutes later, the Lightning turned that situation on its head. At 17:14, immediately after another successful penalty kill, Sami Salo and J.T. Brown fed Tom Pyatt for his first goal of the season.
The period ended with the teams tied at two.
Throughout an exciting third period, during which the Lightning actually did slide briefly into fourth place in the division (and what would be the sixth seed in the conference) due to both Montreal and Toronto completing victories before this game ended. Goaltenders Jimmy Howard for Detroit and Bishop were both spectacular throughout, and actually elevated their play in the third with a number of incredible saves,
"We talked about it before we went out there. We had twenty minutes to leave it all out there for our fans." - Bishop
After some odd non-calls that would have given the Lightning power plays, including two pretty blatant instances of goalie interference, the referees simply couldn't ignore a hold on Nikita Kucherov as he was breaking in alone on Howard at 18:24. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert on the resultant penalty shot.
However, Palat was able to cap the affair just 37 seconds later with an empty netter thanks to assists from Tyler Johnson and Sami Salo.
- This was the 6.000th game in the history of the Red Wings, during which they have compiled a record of 2761-2320-815-104 over the course of 87 seasons. They are the last of the Original Six to reach the milestone, with Chicago getting there on February 3rd.
- Tonight's game was the fourth of five regular season meetings between Detroit and Tampa Bay and the last at the Forum.
- Lightning rookie Vladislav Namestnikov made his NHL debut tonight, He registered 11:55 of ice time and recorded one hit, one takeaway while winning three of six faceoffs (50%).
- Of course, the entire NHL is now off for the Winter Olympic break and will return on February 25. The Lightning's next game will be Thursday, February 27th at Nashville.
- With 58 games completed, the Lightning have now played just under 71% of their games. Of their 24 remaining regular season games, 15 will be at home.
- The Lightning honored Liz and David Kennedy as the 27th Lightning Community Heroes of the year during the first period of tonight's game. The Kennedy's, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Champions for Children/Layla's House Program, the Children's Home, Tampa Metro YMCA, the Presbyterian's Learning Centers of Tampa Bay and the Spring of Tampa Bay. The Kennedy's are a passionate couple who support numerous charities focused on improving the health and well-being of our community's children. They've not only helped out with organizations, but also by being foster parents and sponsors of a refugee family. The Kennedy's have spent more than the past 30 years volunteering and served as mentors to young adults who have aged out of foster care. Even though their foster children don't live with them anymore, the Kennedy's continue to support their grown foster children around the country. Fellow volunteers describe the Kennedy's as saints for their countless amounts of volunteering and ensuring that the local community is a better place to live. The couple spends approximately 75-100 hours each month volunteering at various local charities around the Tampa Bay area.