The Tampa Bay Lightning lost 5-4 in the shootout to the Detroit Red Wings in a result that looks bad devoid of context but in context, was an obvious trap game. The Bolts were coming of an extremely emotional and physical win in Boston the night before. They were playing without Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup for the first time in weeks. The third pair was Luke Schenn on his off side with Zach Bogosian. This game screamed “unexpected” loss as we wrote in the preview and did not disappoint.
Detroit opened the scoring in the first period on a play where all of the concerns coming into this game manifested at once. The Lightning gave up a clean breakaway to Robby Fabbri after a bad turnover in the offensive zone. Schenn and Bogosian were on the ice for the goal and both featured prominently with the former being unnecessarily aggressive and the latter drifting to the right point without accounting for the fact that the Red Wings were on a line change with no other Tampa players back to cover.
The Bolts bounced back in the second period playing much better and even taking the lead. Brayden Point tied the game with a power play goal on a pretty pass from Tyler Johnson who outworked Patrik Nemeth in front of the net. The Bolts took the lead on a fluky goal from Carter Verhaeghe. He flung the puck toward the net from the half boards and it deflected off Luke Glendening past Jonathan Bernier.
It looked like the Lightning would head to the third period with the lead but that wasn’t to be. The Wings got a fluky goal of their own as Ryan McDonagh deflected a pass in front of the net that died on the doorstep in perfect position for Dylan Larkin to flick it into the net past McElhinney who never had a chance.
Detroit retook the lead early in the third period on the power play. Ryan McDonagh, perhaps still a little rusty after missing so many games, missed on two chances to clear the puck. The second one resulted in Anthony Mantha getting a clean look at McElhinney and beating him far side.
Shortly thereafter, as the Lightning tried to press for a tying goal, the Wings extended the lead to two as Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi got loose on a 2 on 1. Erik Cernak dropped to the ice but failed to prevent the final pass allowing Bertuzzi one of the easiest goals any player will score all season.
Brayden Point cut the lead to one again minutes later as his shot on the rush deflected off of Alex Biega’s stick and past Bernier. The Lightning continued to apply pressure and eventually found the tying goal as Pat Maroon collected the puck after Yanni Gourde kicked it toward his stick and put it in the net past Bernier.
The remainder of the period saw both teams create chances but neither could convert and so the game went to overtime. In overtime, the teams played non stop for the entire five minutes. That was at least partially because neither team created any particularly good chances that would have forced the goalie to stop play.
In the shootout, the Lightning got on the board first as Mikhail Sergachev made a slick backhand move to put the Bolts up 1-0. With Point and Kucherov to follow, it looked like Tampa might have a chance at stealing the second point. But no, Dylan Larkin and Fabbri scored for the Wings and Bernier came up big in net to seal the win and give Detroit the second point.
By the numbers, the Lightning played well enough to win. They controlled the shot and expected goal share both at 5v5 and in all situations.
If we’re looking for somewhere to place the blame for tonight’s loss, it might have to go on Curtis McElhinney. As the only player who wasn’t involved in the previous night’s chaos, the team really needed him to play a strong game. Unfortunately, he had one of his rougher nights of the season and that combined with the injuries and fatigue was enough to sink the Lightning against the worst team in the league.
I can understand being frustrated by this loss but for me, a point feels good enough. Before the weekend, pretty much anyone would have been happy to take three of the four points. It’s easy to get greedy after getting both points in Boston but given what that game must have taken out of everyone involved, even getting a point the next day is an accomplishment.
The Lightning easily could’ve let this one get away completely after the two goals early in the third period. I know I thought for sure the game was over at that point. But they managed to come back and survive all the way to the shootout. Unfortunately, they lost the coin flip as Bernier outplayed McElhinney and that was that.
The team will be back in action with another big road game in Toronto on Tuesday. Victor Hedman is still questionable to return in time and if he doesn’t play, they’ll be in a tough spot to compete against a team with that much offensive talent without their best defender.
Brayden Point goal to make it 1-0
Carter Verhaeghe goal to make it 2-1
Brayden Point goal to make it 4-3
Pat Maroon goal to make it 4-4