Time's running out for the Tampa Bay Lightning to A) get healthy and B) figure out how to win away from Amalie Arena.
Both things stung them on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, where the Detroit Red Wings walked away with a 4-0 victory on a 3-goal second period and a light (23-save) shutout effort from Petr Mrazek.
This is the same Red Wings team the Lightning are most likely to face in the first round of the playoffs -- and they might now do so without the services of Cedric Paquette and Jason Garrison, both of whom were injured in the loss.
The opening minutes of the first period went harmlessly enough for the Lightning until a reckless Justin Abdelkader leveled Jason Garrison behind his own net, sending the Lightning defenseman straight into the boards face first. Garrison would need to be helped off the ice and did not return.
As per usual, though, the Lightning failed to capitalize on the resulting power play. Shots finished 8-7 favoring the Wings in the first, as neither team generated much of an advantage. Garrison's absence created an obvious hole on the Lightning blue line that was exploited over time, however. The Red Wings scored three unanswered goals in the second period -- a period that has suddenly become a troubling one for the Bolts -- to put the game away before Tampa Bay could muster much of anything.
A very oddly bouncing puck that started off Kyle Quincey's stick and was redirected by Joakim Andersson found it's way through Ben Bishop to open the scoring. A failed pinch by Victor Hedman on Justin Abdelkader gave the Wings forward a clean break in on Bishop which he converted on for the 2-0 lead. Gustav Nyquist followed that up with a transition tally of his own, skating in to beat an icing call and tap the loose puck over Bishop and into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Luke Glendening added the empty-netter for the 4-0 final.
- 23 shots isn't going to win you many games in any building, home or away.
- At risk of sounding more and more like a broken record, the Tampa Bay Lightning power play is undeniably, obviously, painfully, frustratingly broken. Detroit committed 7 minor penalties. Tampa Bay was 0/6 on the power play. This isn't a funny joke any more. It's sad, and it's a big problem, and it has remained unaddressed for months.
- Setting aside the injuries and some other external factors, Detroit was the better team on the ice. Their passes were crisper, their breakouts quicker and more efficient, and the time spent in Tampa's end -- particularly in the 2nd period, where the game was won -- was all advantage earned via superior play. For a team that, for whatever reason, Tampa Bay had suddenly begun to dominate in recent history, this was a troubling outcome with single-digit regular season games remaining and a potential 7-game playoff series looming.
- The Lightning top-6, which has fared well against Detroit this season, played fine without scoring a goal; both the Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson units were heavily in "plus" territory possession wise and did what they could (albeit, some late after the game was in hand) to put pressure on the Detroit defense. But the bottom-6 got thrashed. Vlad Namestnikov was on the ice for just Tampa Bay shot attempt all night, and 15 against (6.25% CF). Abysmal. He still needs sheltering in the NHL and he's not getting it when Jon Cooper doesn't have last change.
- Garrison's injury happened early, forcing Cooper to use the rest of his D differently than he normally would. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman both skated over 24 minutes. He leaned on them heavily without Garrison to anchor a 2nd pair.
- Paquette's injury came right at the end of the game. With Namestnikov already being carried on the roster it's tough to say if there is a need for a call-up; Tampa Bay has D Mark Barberio and F J.T. Brown available to insert into the lineup. Both were healthy scratches on Saturday. The long-term prognosis for Garrison and Paquette will likely determine the next step.