With the post-All Star portion of the season underway and a tight knot at the top of the Atlantic Division (a single point separates Tampa Bay, Montreal and Detroit for the top three slots), whoever is in first is liable to change on a day-to-day basis. Currently, that spot belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning because they took it by force. Entering tonight's game a point behind the leaders from Detroit, the Lightning relied on a thoroughly dominant and explosive second period to send the visitors home in third, setting a new franchise record for consecutive home wins with nine in the process.
In what was a somewhat sluggish opening period for both teams, Cedric Paquette opened the scoring at 2:03, giving the Lightning the early lead thanks to assists from Alex Killorn and Jason Garrison.
As is always the case when Detroit visits, there were plenty of red sweaters in the stands. A huge penalty kill with Brett Connolly picking up a four minute roughing call helped in terms of momentum, at least for the home team fans.
Detroit tied the game at 11:59 on a goal by Darren Helm who was allowed to skate right in on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop to score at close range. He was assisted on the play by Jonathan Ericsson and Pavel Datsyuk.
What looked like was going to be a tight, back-and-forth contest, with the Red Wings looking a bit more sharp than the Lightning, was underway.
Paquette struck again with only :37 remaining in the period and everything changed. He was assisted this time by Jonathan Drouin and Killorn.
The Lightning carried the 2-1 advantage into the first intermission.
At 4:18 of the second, Steven Stamkos cashed in on the power play, getting help from Anton Stralman and Drouin.
The Lightning got another special teams goal, this time shorthanded as Paquette scored (unassisted) his third of the night, to collect his first NHL hat trick at 11;03.
"I didn't realize in the moment honestly. I wanted to pass to Boyler (Brian Boyle) but at the same time, I tried to go for the hat trick and I think I did a pretty good job." - Paquette
"I couldn't have been happier for Ceddy Paquette. He was feeling it tonight. The boys were really happy for him. He earned it. That kid's been gaming it out forever for us, trying to find his way and pucks haven't been going in, and they went in tonight for him. He earned every break he got tonight." - head coach Jon Cooper
Mark Barberio capped off the scoring for the period and the game, blasting a slapshot past Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek at 17:39. Andrej Sustr and Tyler Johnson chipped in with assists on the play.
With Tampa Bay up 5-1 on just 15 shots, Detroit replaced Mrazek with Tom McCollum to start the third. McCollum would go on to stop all 17 shots he faced during the final frame and the fireworks were over. For his part, Ben Bishop went all the way for the Lightning, stopping 27 of 28 shots.
The Lightning will close out the month on Saturday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets before beginning a February that will only see them at the Amalie Arena four times.
- The last time the Lightning lost at home was on December 9th, 5-3 to the Washington Capitals.
- This was the second of four regular season meetings between the Red Wings and Tampa Bay, The Lightning picked up a 4-3 shootout win in Detroit on November 9th.
- Paquette is one shy of being the eighth Lightning player to register double digits in goals so far this season. Brian Boyle hit the milestone in Tuesday's loss at Carolina.
- Bishop has won nine of his last ten decisions.
- Tampa Bay is now 7-11-1 plus a tie all-time at home vs Detroit.
- Datsyuk passed Nick Libett and tied Ted Lindsay for 11th all-time in games played for the Red Wings with 862.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Ros Miller as the 25th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Miller, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Moffitt Cancer Center. Tonight's Lightning Community Hero has positively affected the Tampa Bay community in more ways than one. She has spent 11 years volunteering at the Florida Holocaust Museum providing awareness to hundreds of children and adults, to help prevent a re-occurrence of that horrific time in history. Having lost a daughter who was a non-smoker to stage IV lung cancer, Miller has been committed to creating awareness and raising funds to combat this deadly disease. She has carried out this mission by starting Jillian's Dream in 2014, a partnership with Uniting Against Lung Cancer, a 501 (c) 3 organization, to help find a cure for lung cancer in honor of her late daughter Jillian. Through Miller's efforts, Jillian's Dream has raised over $80,000 toward lung cancer research.