It wasn’t a pretty showing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they secured a win over the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. Ryan Callahan made his return to the lineup (with Adam Erne moving to the press box), and Andrei Vasilevskiy started in net after having Louis Domingue take the previous game. Possession wise, Tampa Bay was rather mediocre against a Red Wings team that didn’t have the same amount of talent on the roster.
Tampa Bay finished the game with a 51.28% CF%, led in scoring chances, 18-16 but trailed in high danger scoring chances 4-6. Thanks to another perfect penalty kill and timely scoring, the Lightning finished their season-opening homestand with a 4-1-0 record.
The Lightning will take the wins in whatever way they can, and even though they didn’t play their best against an inferior opponent, they found a way to secure two points—that’s what matters.
The opening period was a bit sloppy for Tampa Bay. Missed passes and odd decisions in the offensive zone neutralized a lot of the early pressure Tampa Bay could’ve had. Mikhail Sergachev rung a shot off the inside of the post early on, but outside of that, Tampa Bay generated little early on.
An early power-play after Niklas Kronwall was sent to the box for interference gave the Lightning a chance to extend their hot streak with the man advantage. Unfortunately, the most noteworthy event of the power-play was a 2-on-0 play by the Red Wings that Vasilevskiy shut down to keep the game knotted at zero.
Tampa Bay regained control after Vasilevskiy’s save and reset themselves in the offensive zone. The power-play failed to convert, but the Lightning maintained possession and forced Detroit out of position as Ondrej Palat fed a pass behind the net to Yanni Gourde. Gourde glided away from the Detroit net as he tried to feed a pass to Brayden Point in the slot.
Point was jostling for position against Kronwall when Gourde’s pass bounced off his teammate’s skate and past Howard to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 7:33 into the period. If Kronwall doesn’t push Point right before Gourde’s pass then this goal could’ve been prevented.
A second power-play for the Lightning, after Luke Glendening was called for hooking, managed to apply some pressure on Detroit, but ultimately it failed to convert.
The remainder of the opening period was mostly back and forth play with neither team grabbing a strong foothold. Tampa Bay struggled to penetrate Detroit’s neutral zone pressure while the Red Wings toiled to move the puck toward the middle of the offensive zone. The Lightning gave the Red Wings some help when J.T. Miller was called for hooking with just over a minute left in the period.
The Lightning penalty kill held up as they killed Miller’s first penalty, however, just 3:56 into the second period, Miller was penalized again; this time for tripping. Tampa Bay killed this penalty off as well (this is getting stranger to type as the season progresses, this streak they’re on is a bit ridiculous), but roughly 30 seconds after Miller’s penalty expired Detroit knotted the score up.
Glendening was in the right place at the right time here. Darren Helm starts the play as he enters the offensive zone with possession before passing to Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader then feeds it to Trevor Daley who just entered the offensive zone. Daley carries it deep into the zone before passing it back to Abdelkader.
The puck never gets across as it hits Tyler Johnson’s skate in the process. Glendening swipes at the puck but it’s blocked by Vasilevskiy (who is sprawled out at this point). The rebound trickles toward Abdelkader who passes it back to Glendening. Glendening doesn’t waste his second opportunity as he put it past Vasilevskiy to give Detroit some life.
Detroit gained momentum off the goal and began tilting the ice in their favor as the second progressed. The Lightning essentially weathered the storm during this juncture, but a double minor roughing call on Cedric Paquette (Tyler Bertuzzi was called for roughing as well, but only received a single minor) put the Lightning on the penalty kill once again. Once again, Vasilevskiy and the penalty kill stood tall denying Detroit the go-ahead goal.
Tampa Bay had a small surge in the latter half of the period where they pressured Detroit into a few mistakes. Their pressure paid off as Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the season.
Kucherov is the lynchpin in this play. He carries the puck into the offensive zone with a Red Wing covering him. The Russian forward spins away and passes it to Sergachev at the point. Sergachev and Kucherov do a quick game of give and go before Sergachev fires it on net.
Glendening blocks the shot and the puck bounces right toward Kucherov. Somehow, no one notices the 6’1’’ 195 lbs Steven Stamkos sliding into the high slot during this sequence. Abdelkader goes to pressure Kucherov and the man who should be covering Stamkos (Dennis Cholowski) is lackadaisically putting his stick near him. Kucherov makes one move with his stick before feeding it into Stamkos’ wheelhouse. The puck ends up in the back of the net and it’s 2-1 Lightning.
The Lightning weathered another penalty kill and went into the locker room leading by one goal but down in shots and possession. It wasn’t pretty, but all they needed to do was play a solid third to wrap up another win.
The third period was largely uneventful. Tampa Bay did control it, but outside of Stamkos being robbed on a one-timer by Jimmy Howard and Mathieu Joseph toe-dragging around former Bolt Luke Witkowski to generate a dangerous scoring chance, this period was meh. Detroit’s only real chance came when Darren Helm got behind the Lightning defense and deked out Vasilevskiy. Fortunately, the puck rolled off his stick and past the net before he could capitalize on it.
Alex Killorn added an empty net goal to seal the win for the Lightning.
They weren’t their best tonight, and Detroit came at them with everything, but at the end of the day Tampa Bay did what good teams do; find a way to win. A homestand where you win four out of five is always a good thing.
Penalty Kill and Wallsilevskiy
Their streak continues. There were some shaky points for the penalty kill this evening, but Wallsilevskiy was there to thwart any Detroit dreams of scoring on the man advantage. There was even an impressive shorthanded chance by Tyler Johnson and Mathieu Joseph that almost gave Joseph his first NHL goal.
The Lightning are clearly more confident while being shorthanded to start the season. They were never this consistent at shutting opposing power-plays down and generating their own shorthanded ones last season. This streak will eventually end, but to start the season with 20 straight kills is one impressive achievement.
All the Bloody Penalties
As great as the penalty kill has been, Tampa Bay’s propensity to take penalties is worrisome. The Lightning have never been the most disciplined team under Jon Cooper, but they’re usually better than five penalties a game. Detroit’s power-play was eighth in the NHL prior to this evening, so, they were playing with fire in that regard. It worked out in their favor, but once they start playing the offensively prolific teams in the league, this could become an Achilles heel.
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