There will be a Game 7.
The Tampa Bay Lightning looked strong early and finally able to solve Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek early on and build a lead. They then had to withstand a furious late push from the home squad to insure a Game 7 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night.
The Bolts struck first on a set play used perfectly against Detroit's stout neutral zone coverage; Victor Hedman fired a long stretch pass on target to Nikita Kucherov at the attacking blue line, who flipped it past the last man on defense into an area for a streaking Tyler Johnson to skate into. Johnson buried a high wrister over Petr Mrazek for an early 1-0 lead.
The Bolts had to survive a pair of penalty kills in the first, but they managed well enough to take advantage once again at 5v5; a poor line change from the Wings gave Steven Stamkos an opportunity down the right win. He held the puck long enough to draw Mrazek out of his crease and then snapped a pass to a wide-open Jason Garrison for a 2-0 lead.
The Lightning extended their lead in the middle frame with Tyler Johnson's 2nd of the night (and 6th of the playoffs) on another bad change by the Wings; Ondrej Palat made a quick-up to Johnson who buried a snap shot past Mrazek for a 3-0 lead.
An eventful 2nd period also saw 22 total penalty minutes assessed (all minors) and this hit from Niklas Kronwall on Nikita Kucherov:
GIF: No penalty on this Kronwall hit on Kucherov pic.twitter.com/URkM6NrOZW— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) April 28, 2015
There was no penalty assessed on the play, and the Wings drew within two on a power play goal from Tomas Tatar. The Bolts killed off a partial 5-on-3 but were scrambling around during the remaining penalty time when Tatar turned to the front of the net and tucked a shot 5-hole on Bishop.
The third period was typical for a team with a two-goal lead on the road in the playoffs facing elimination -- the Bolts tried to play keepaway, hold-the-lead hockey. The Wings quickly capitalized with Tomas Tatar's 2nd of the night just minutes into the third, off an assist from Pavel Datsyuk. The rest of the period was classic "hold onto your butts" hockey that assuredly had Lightning fans biting their fingernails. The Wings pushed hard looking for an equalizer, and the Bolts bent, but didn't break.
Alex Killorn added an insurance marker off the rush and Cedric Paquette drilled the empty net dead center to put this one away for good and send the series back to the Sunshine State.
- First up: start time for Wednesday's Game 7 at Amalie.
Starting Time Set for 7:30 p.m. ET for Wednesday's Game 7 of the Tampa Bay-Detroit Series— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 28, 2015
- As for the Niklas Kronwall hit, which will undoubtedly be a hot topic over the next few days. It was dirty. He left his feet and launched his forearm/shoulder into Kucherov's head. Kucherov was defenseless/vulnerable after making a play. Kronwall has a responsibility to avoid A) making the head the principal point of contact and B) hitting a player in a vulnerable position. How it wasn't called a penalty on the ice, I don't know.
- All that said I do not expect Kronwall to be suspended for Game 7. The NHL does not like to interfere with the outcomes of series in such a dramatic fashion. Kronwall is Detroit's #1 defenseman. I expect a slap on the wrist and the maximum allowable fine under the CBA. He will play in Game 7.
- Nikita Kucherov will also likely play in Game 7 after returning to the ice in Game 6 and finishing with 3 assists (still no goals though).
- Still, I would not be surprised if the team employs some gamesmanship with Kucherov; he might sit out any practice/skate TB has tomorrow and they might not update his status until after a decision comes down on Kronwall.
- Was going to save this for tomorrow's Quick Strikes, but this is unreal from Mrazek. Kept his team in it before the Killorn goal with this save:
Wings' Petr Mrazek makes unreal stick save on Lightning's Brian Boyle http://t.co/CgeEbgHJvJ #Hockeynight #CBCSports pic.twitter.com/NADPG2RJ2i— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) April 28, 2015
- After pitching a fit in the media about obstruction/interference, Jon Cooper got the most likely result -- 7 Detroit power plays and just 2 for Tampa Bay. So he played nice after Game 6:
Cooper said he didn't see Kronwall hit. "The refs didn't call a penalty, so it must have been OK."— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) April 28, 2015