Game 75 recap: Points streak snapped as Tampa Bay Lightning lose 3-2 to Detroit Red Wings

Dilip Vishwanat

The points streak is finally snapped after 11 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning lost for the first time in five tries versus new division rival Detroit, this time on the road by a score of 3-2.

The move to the Eastern Conference was supposed to ease the burden for the "always there" Detroit Red Wings.

Their dominance over the Tampa Bay Lightning since the Bolts' inception has been well documented.

A 4-0 record for the Lightning to start off this year against their new division rivals was almost impossible to fathom in September, and yet here the Bolts were, heading into game number 5 against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena with a chance to sweep the Wings outright.

The Bolts couldn't quite get it done on Sunday night after rallying back to beat the Buffalo Sabres the night before, also on the road.  Detroit scored three consecutive goals in the middle of the game and held on for a critical regulation win with things still looking very crowded in the East even as the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to implode.

The beginning of the game wasn't exactly pretty for the Bolts, which maybe is expected considering this was night two of a back-to-back in game 75 of the season. The Red Wings carried the balance of play early, but it was the Lightning who struck first. Valterri Filppula pounced on a loose puck in the slot after a blown zone exit by the Wings and put a deceiving wrist shot past goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to give the Bolts the early lead with 11:20 remaining in the first.

The Wings answered with three consecutive goals split between the first and second periods. The first came off the stick of Joakim Andersson, who potted a rebound from a high slot shot by Darren Helm, who was unmarked.

Gustav Nyquist then gave the Wings the lead for good at 15:24 of the first, with a tremendous individual effort, highlight-worthy goal (something the Lightning have been on the wrong end of a little bit too often lately). He fought off what was likely a handful of obstruction penalties by an out-of-position Matt Carle and somehow scored anyways from below the goal line when he was most likely about to get a penalty shot.

The Lightning managed a much better second period overall, outshooting the Wings 13-8 and getting more good scoring chances on Gustavsson, who stopped them all. Only David Legwand found twine on a late power play, tipping a shot up and over Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop to extend the Detroit lead to 3-1 heading into the third period.

The Bolts had their fair share of opportunities to draw even, but failed to convert on a pair of third period power plays. Sami Salo scored on what looked like a harmless shot from the point at 15:31 of the third to make the final score 3-2, as the Lightning managed little more than token offense even in the waning moments of regulation.

Game Notes
  • The elephant in the room: let's get to it. Jon Cooper has been stubborn, obstinate, even, when it comes to how he uses his goaltenders. Ben Bishop started back to back games again this season, and he looked tired, playing behind a tired team. Perhaps this is not the smartest strategy when heading into a playoff run? Securing home-ice advantage is important but if it comes at the cost of the goaltender that got you there...

  • It raises the question -- what is Anders Lindback still doing on this roster? If management or the coaching staff can't be bothered to use him in back-to-back situations to spell the workhorse down the stretch, why was he not waived? Traded? There were plenty of rental goalies available on the market at the deadline. It's doubtful Lindback's .880 this season is his true talent -- he's capable of playing much better. But if you have no faith in him as an organization, what are you even doing dressing him? Why wasn't this addressed sooner? A back-up goalie isn't just there in case your starter breaks. And Bishop, at times, looks very close to breaking.
  • The power play, while much improved since Steven Stamkos' return and the addition of Ryan Callahan, went 0/4 versus the Red Wings. The Bolts lost the 5v5 battle, the special teams battle, and the game.
  • The loss counts as one of the two "games in hand" the Lightning previously held on Montreal, who was idle today. That leaves the Bolts still two points behind the Habs (91 points to 93) with one game in hand still remaining. The head-to-head match-up between those two teams at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday could play a very large role in ultimately deciding which of the two teams has home-ice advantage in what is all but decided as a first-round match-up in the East.

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