The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday afternoon to tie their 2015 NHL Playoffs opening series at one game each.
After Game 1 on Thursday night, a game when the Lightning played as complete a game from start to finish as they have all year against an opponent that clearly wasn't at their best and came away with a loss, there were two scary unasked questions floating around:
- Could the Lightning possibly play that well or even better in four of the potentially remaining six games?
- Would Detroit be as subpar in three of those six?
If the answers were "no", what that meant for a Tampa Bay team looking to win their first postseason game and advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2011 was another scary question: what if the Lightning's best simply wasn't good enough?
Well, Detroit certainly played a better all-around game than they did on Thursday, but as far as the Lightning were concerned, they played just as well (if not as statistically dominant) as they did Thursday, and much, much better in the case of goalie Ben Bishop, this time getting the desired results.
"It's important. Obviously we thought we played well enough in the first game to win and we didn't, so it was important to come out and play like we did tonight. Obviously it's going to be a little tougher in Detroit, but we're looking forward to it. Should be fun." - Steven Stamkos
"It's funny how it goes sometimes. You know, we had 46 shots (on Thursday) and only scored two and now we have 30 and score five. We just have to keep plugging away. I liked the way we played in these first two games." - Victor Hedman
The Lightning scored first on a power play (another concern lingering from Game 1, when they were 0 for 7 with the man advantage), with Tyler Johnson one-timing a rebound of a shot by Nikita Nesterov that caromed off the post. Nikita Kucherov picked up the secondary assist.
That was part of a scrap-filled opening four minutes that looked like it might stretch throughout the entire game, but pretty much settled down after that.
Tampa Bay carried the 1-0 edge into the first intermission.
At 7:56 of the second, Alex Killorn doubled the lead on another second-effort, hard-earned goal, getting helpers from Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos.
Andrej Sustr scored his first goal since the 2013-14 season at 14:48, coming at a time when the improvements the Red Wings had implemented seemed to be swinging the momentum in their favor, wearing the Lightning down and putting them on their heels a bit. He was assisted on the play by Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Johnson scored his second goal of the game at 19:22 on a breakaway and beating Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek. Victor Hedman was credited with the only official assist but the play was made possible by Kucherov tying up Detroit's Danny Dekeyser at the blue line and taking him out of the action.
After two periods, the Lightning were up 4-0 and Detroit replaced Mrazek in goal with Jimmy Howard. Mrazek left having allowed four goals on 18 shots. Howard would go on to stop 11 of the 12 he would face in 20 minutes of work.
At 5:49 of the third, the Red Wings' Tomas Tatar finally solved Ben Bishop, rebounding from a poor performance in Game 1 to stop 23 of 24 shots that came his way. Tatar was assisted by Kyle Quincey and Gustav Nyquist.
"Today he (Bishop) was really good. We have to obviously screen a little better and attack the net better, but he had a good game today. We just have to throw it behind us and focus on the next one." - Tatar
At 15:26, the Lightning capped off the scoring when Filppula tapped in his own rebound, getting assistance from Stamkos and Nesterov on the play.
The series moves to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM.
- The Lightning outshot the Red Wings again, but by a much smaller margin of 30 to 24. In fact, with about six minutes remaining in the game, Detroit actually held an edge in that department.
- This was head coach Jon Cooper's first NHL playoff win.
- One thing that may be a bit of a surprise is how physical the Lightning have been so far in this series. The playoffs are automatically more physical than the regular season, but the Lightning are initiating this kind of play rather than responding to it, which is not what most people would expect from what is known as a "finesse" team. "We're just sticking up for each other", says Stamkos. "We've done that all year, that's been a characteristic of this team. Whether it had an effect on the game, obviously Johnny (Tyler Johnson) was nice to get it going on the power play there and get the boys going, but we stuck together all game. We played physical, we played hard, and finally the hard work paid off."
- The Lightning were 25-11-5 during the regular season against teams that qualified for the playoffs, with a 14-4-1 record at home against those teams.
- Johnson led all skaters in shots taken with six.
- Hedman blocked four shots.
- Today's win guarantees there will be at least one more game at Amalie Arena this season, Game 5 of the series which will be played next Saturday, April 25. Time to be determined.
- The Lightning honored the Jackson Family as the 43rd Lightning Community Heroes of the season during the first period of today's game. The Jackson's, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In the early 1900's, the Jackson Family opened and operated a boarding house in Tampa known as the Jackson House. It served to lodge African American travelers whether they were servicemen, railroad workers and passengers, entertainers or transients. The Jackson House has hosted numerous historical figures including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Duke Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, as well as many others. During an era of segregation, it provided the African American community with a cohesive atmosphere to withstand the time period. The Jackson House is still standing in Tampa after over a century and has been passed down and operated by several generations of the Jackson Family who strive to preserve the legacy of the Jackson House as a symbol of economic freedom and resilience for the African American community. Difficult circumstances have resulted in an uncertain future with the house needing stabilization funding and ultimately a renovation. Inspired by the idea of this unique home and it's landmark symbol for Tampa's African American community, the Lightning Foundation is proud to donate $50,000 to the Jackson Family's designated organization, the NAACP, to help stabilize the home and enable leaders to plan for the Jackson House's future.