The Lightning breathed life into their playoff hopes last night by beating Boston; they kept those hopes from being snuffed out by coming back to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime. Nikita Kucherov scored the game winner in the extra session off a beautiful pass from Brayden Point to stay a point away from the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Due to some injuries suffered in the game at Boston the night before, the Lightning shuffled their line-up a bit. Luke Witkowski moved back to defense and was partnered with Anton Stralman, who moved across the ice to the left side. Greg McKegg traded his pressbox suit for a uniform and played for the first time since March 18th.
The best thing to happen in the first period is that no one got hurt. The Lightning did an excellent job of harassing the Red Wings in the neutral zone and at the blue line. Very rarely did Detroit get an easy entry into the offensive zone and it showed as they were held to only four shots (despite having the only power play of the period when Ondrej Palat skiied a puck into the fifth row at the 4:23 mark, but the Lightning killed it with ease).
On the offensive side, the Brayden Point line was up to their usual hijinks as far as keeping the puck in the zone, but unlike the last month or so, they failed to actually score. Jonathan Drouin attempted to duplicate his sneaky quick slapshot goal, but Petr Mrazek managed to get a blocker on it.
Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou woke up the crowd with a decent scrap. Athanasiou went for the single leg takedown, Erne defended it by throwing a few body shots. Both fighters had some wild swings that got the crowd excited but didn’t really do a lot of damage. While those two were wrestling, Justin Abdelkader attempted to get Yanni Gourde to drop the mitts, because….reasons. Luckily Luke Witkowski wandered over to stop that nonsense. There were a bunch of penalties dished out (six total), but since they all cancelled out both teams continued at five skaters aside.
Drew Miller had the best chance for the Red Wings in the dying minutes of the period, but Point deflected the shot away before it could trouble Vasilevskiy.
The period finished scoreless with the Lightning leading 8-4 in shots on net.
The Lightning looked fatigued in the second period. From the drop of the puck, Detroit seemed to be a step quicker. While Vasilevskiy helped keep the score close by stopping 17 shots in the period, the Red Wings grabbed the lead.
Greg McKegg wanted to make sure he got into the stat sheet. First he rammed Dylan Larkin into the boards with a clean hit and then fought above his weight class when Anthony Mantha defended Larkin. McKegg lost clean, but Mantha took a few extra shots with the Lightning center on the ice. Nothing like a few extra punches to ramp up the dislike between the two clubs.
The Lightning did have a lot of zone time on the ensuing penalty (Mantha picked up an instigator), but Mrazek was equal to the task stopping shots from Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman.
A few minutes later Adam Erne threw a hit on Xavier Ouellet (great hockey name) in the Lightning zone. Unfortunately Ouellet didn't have the puck, so Erne was off to the box for interference. Detroit was more confident with the puck on this power play than they were on the first, but a subtle left pad save from Vasilevskiy kept the Red Wings off the board...for a few minutes.
They would finally sneak one by the Lightning netminder just seconds after Erne left the penalty box. The moment Gustav Nyquist squeezed past a stickless Hedman things looked bad. Surely enough Nyquist had enough space to feed a quick pass to Henrik Zetterberg. The captain of the Red Wings snapped off a quick shot that found its way past a screened Vasilevskiy.
It was the 325th goal of Zetterberg’s career.
With nine minutes to go, Gourde found himself all alone on a clean breakaway, but Mrazek stoned him to preserve his shutout.
Dotchin picked up a penalty by high-sticking Abdelkader, which shouldn’t be a penalty, but is. The Lightning killed it fairly easily, but were right back on the kill after Stralman took down Athanasiou with four minutes to go in the period. The Red Wings swarmed the Lightning for the first 40 seconds of the power play, but a post, Vasilevskiy, and a random stick kept the puck out of the back of the net. Zetterberg ended up hooking Palat to even things up.
The Lightning were not able to generate any sustained pressure during the four-on-four or their forty-second power play and the period ended with the Red Wings up 1-0.
As it has seemed to be for every game over the last few weeks, the Lightning began the third period with their season on the line. A regulation loss to Detroit would undo all of the ground they had gained with the win on Thursday against the Bruins.
They found some life early in the third period. Catching the Red Wings in a slow line change, the Point line finally found some open ice. Kucherov unloaded a big shot from just inside the blue line that Mrazek wasn’t able to control. The Detroit goaltender looked to his left, but the puck went to his right and to Palat who put the rebound into an unprotected net.
The game opened up a bit after the Lightning goal as Drouin ripped a shot just over the bar and then Vasilevskiy had to flash his right pad to stop Larkin in front of the net. Detroit went back on the power play for the 17th time in the game (actually the fifth) as Killorn got his stick a little too high on Mike Green (he hit him in the face with it).
The Lightning spent the next two minutes putting on a shot-blocking clinic and kept the game tied at one. Playing with a little more desperation, they managed to draw a penalty minutes later when JT Brown was hauled down by Athanasiou.
They were unable to convert as Detroit continued to cover them tightly, cutting down on the space that Drouin likes to operate with. Gabriel Dumont almost caught Mrazek after the penalty was over, as the Lightning fourth-liner fired a slapshot destined for the far post. The goaltender managed to deflect it with his blocker as he stretched out as far as he could.
Another Lightning power play quickly followed and floundered. Tampa did have some better looks at the net, but weren’t able to get the puck to settle long enough to do any damage. The clock wound down to zero with the score tied at one and the Lightning secured at least one point in the standings.
Brayden Point. Nikita Kucherov.
That is all.
Lightning win 2-1.