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5th gear and the track record; Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red WIngs game 3 preview

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Fox Sports Florida, NBC Sports Net (cable) | (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Winging it in MotownAbel to Yzerman

Saturday at Amalie Arena, and arguably Thursday as well, you saw what the Lightning were capable of offensively against any opponent. They'd done it at random times during the regular season and when they did do it, you would be left in awe. If you're a Lightning fan... that awe was a contented grin on your face and some exuberance ("Damn, they're good!") and if you were an opponent that suffered the defeat, you either looked past the game and the path forward or you felt dread, "Cripes, we suck right now" (I can remember that line being invoked by a visiting Canadiens fan on one of our game threads from this past season).

In the case of Saturday's win for the Lightning, the Red Wings didn't suck; 24 shots on goal against Ben Bishop at his rate of play in game 1 could have resulted in the Bolts being the team that gave up 5 goals Saturday. While we did dread after the result of game 1, we reveled in game 2 because we've seen that team, we've known that team, and this was why expectations are high with the playoffs.

There was blood-in-the-water in the second period, there was a frenzy taking place and the Lightning drove to the net in 5th gear... Hauling ass and kicking ass on the road to a win. It's part of the reason expectations were high going into the series to begin with - Tampa Bay pulled this act against the Red Wings already on January 29th and March 20th - a combined score of 8-2. Call them message games if you will, call them anomalies if you're a Red Wings fan... but potent enough "anomalies" to raise concerns.

Though the recent history means crap in the second-season, the anomalies of recent are Wings wins against the Lightning. Narrow losses from the past two seasons are the counter-weight to "message game" losses.


Winner /Final Score


TBL 3-2 OT


TBL 2-1 SO


TBL 3-0


TBL 4-2


DET 3-2


TBL 4-3 SO


TBL 5-1


TBL 3-1


DET 4-0

What works in Detroit's favor with that aspect is the shootout is not part of the playoffs, nor is 4-on-4 play in overtime. If the Lightning can't hit that high gear and put distance between themselves and Detroit during regulation, the game won't be settled in novelty hockey. We keep playing through sudden death overtime until the shoe drops and someone is declared a winner.

The preferred path forward is to rumble over the Wings in a 5th gear frenzy, but the Lightning can't slip into 5th with ease. It happens, but it's not a consistent beast.

Justin Abdelkader will be back in the lineup for the Red Wings tonight after missing games 1 and 2 while Jonathan Drouin remains out of the Lightning lineup with a case of Cooperitis. Defenseman Jason Garrison will also remain out of the Lightning lineup as he continues to mend from his upper-body injury. He did once again participate in the morning skate in a defensive pairing with Mark Barberio but he won't be on the blue-line tonight.

Petr Mrazek will remain the goalie of choice from Mike Babcock who refused to panic after the heavy loss to the Bolts Saturday.  Ben Bishop gets the nod in crease for the Lightning.

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