The Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout by a score of 4-3 on Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena. The win marks the sixth in a row for Lightning and second in two nights after a 7-4 win over Columbus in Ohio the night before.
A second game in two nights on the road -- with travel in between -- is a typical spot to drop points in the standings, or at the very best, to struggle and rely on strong goaltending to steal a victory from a rested, tested home squad. The fact that the Lightning were able not just to hang around with Detroir -- a top-10 possession team -- but also to carry play for long stretches in spite of playing last night in Columbus says very good things about the Lightning moving forward.
The Lightning opened the game with surprising energy at 5v5, earning the game's first three scoring chances and playing in Detroit's zone for much of the first few minutes. A Ryan Callahan goaltender interference penalty off a rush put Detroit on the power play, which they converted from a faceoff with a Johan Franzen goal, to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
The Lightning answered with a power play tally of their own from Steven Stamkos on a hard one-timer from the high slot that beat Jimmy Howard to tie the game at 1. The Bolts successfully built off the man advantage conversion and continued to pressure Detroit at 5v5 through the remainder of the first period and into the second when Ryan Callahan found Steven Stamkos streaking into the offensive zone. Stamkos stutter stepped in the slot before ripping a wrist shot through Howard that gave the Lightning the lead 2-1 after a video review.
Moments later, Tyler Johnson found the top corner of the net with a one-timer set up by Ondrej Palat to extend the Lightning lead to 3-1. That led Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to use his timeout to try and regroup, which the Wings did to some extent aided by a touch foul called on Cedric Paquette in front of the Lightning net. Detroit scored on the ensuing power play with a slap shot from the left circle by Darren Helm for their second power play marker of the night and a 3-2 Lightning lead with just under 9 minutes remaining in the second.
Gustav Nyquist tied the game at 3 on a nifty move walking through the Lightning defense and snapping a shot past Bishop, who was tested a bit in the third period and overtime (9 total shots on goal for Detroit during that time.) Still, Detroit mustered only 20 total shots on goal through regulation and overtime against a tired Lightning squad, which bodes well for a still-improving mix of young skaters.
Bishop, who had been very good in the shootout last year, was strong again, remaining calm and patient on dekes and simply taking up a lot of net. He made saves on Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, both of whom attempted elaborate dekes on the way in but couldn't get Bishop to commit, before stopping a last-ditch shot from Darren Helm who nearly overskated the puck on his attempt. Ryan Callahan converted on his attempt as the first shooter for the Lightning to seal the bonus point as the Lightning improve to 11-3-1 with 23 points, currently tops in the entire NHL.
- It's nitpicking of course but I cannot, for the life of me, fathom using Matt Carle in a shootout situation. I honestly don't care how good he might look in practice. This just seems like a coach getting cute for no good reason. All that young forward talent and you put Matt Carle out in a skills competition?
- Steven Stamkos is really, really, really good. While the line of Valtteri Filppula, Stamkos, and Ryan Callahan has struggled with chemistry at times, they were all over the place in this one, accounting for seven total scoring chances in the first 30 minutes of play and outchancing the entire Detroit Red Wings team by themselves until partway through the third.
- The Red Wings struggled to generate meaningful offensive possession or dangerous scoring chances on Ben Bishop; Johan Franzen's goal was from long distance off a faceoff and Darren Helm scored off a wide rush but neither chance stood out as terribly great opportunities. Tampa did a good job in defensive coverage outside of Gustav Nyquist's goal.
- The officials called 9 total minor penalties in the first and second periods, resulting in three total power play goals (one for Tampa Bay and two for Detroit). The whistles magically disappeared in the third period with the game tied. The early calls did seem to strangle any sort of gameflow but credit to the Lightning for pressing their 5v5 advantage when they could, as they were on the attack for much of the night.
- Matt Carle skated a game-high 27:56 including nearly three minutes on the top PK and PP units. He's looked fine next to Anton Stralman but this team still needs Victor Hedman back logging big minutes in order to slot everyone, Carle included, in a more appropriate role.
- Steven Stamkos' 9th and 10th goals of the season move him into a tie with Tyler Seguin for third place in the Rocket Richard race behind Corey Perry and Rick Nash.
- Ben Bishop finished the evening with a. .850 SV%, though two goals were allowed on a still-dreadful penalty kill unit for the Bolts. He now ranks 29th in the NHL in SV% (.910) but for now the Lightning skaters are playing well enough (and scoring at a high clip) to mask a dip in Bishop's numbers.