There are times when it would be nice to see a running clock in the NHL. After the Tampa Bay Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the first period, there wouldn’t be too many complaints if the game clock kept going through offside and icing calls. Five different Lightning players ended up recording goals as they easily dispatched the Detroit Red Wings, 5-1, on Wednesday night.
Victor Hedman, Anthony Cirelli, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, and Alex Killorn recorded goals while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped sixteen shots as the Lightning remained undefeated at home. They have no recorded at least one point in seven of the eight games they’ve played in and sit atop of the Central Division with thirteen points.
Coming into the game, the Red Wings were struggling, having lost their last six games. The good news for them was that they were getting some players back. Robby Fabbri, old friend Adam Erne, John Merrill and Sam Gagner all returned to the line-up. Thomas Greiss, winless as a Red Wing, was called upon to defend the Detroit net.
Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to the net for the 34th consecutive game and the Bolts rolled out the same 11/7 line-up that was successful in their last game against Nashville.
Well, the Lightning apparently enjoy 5:30 pm starts as they wasted little time in gaining the lead. During a Detroit line change Victor Hedman acquired the puck and wheeled into the Red Wings zone. With Dylan Larkin giving him the type of coverage you normally see in a pick-up game, the Big Swede cut to the middle and ripped a wrister top corner, just over the blocker of Greiss.
Victor Hedman (Tyler Johnson)
Hedman has been absolutely beastly to start the season, despite having a heavier workload than he has in past regular seasons. He may be aiming to add another Norris trophy to his shelves in Sweden.
Following the goal the Lightning drew a penalty as Anthony Mantha was called for hooking when he lazily reached his stick out to defend against Tyler Johnson. Ondrej Palat evened things up as he tripped Marc Staal behind the net. Four on four hockey for 95 seconds!
The Lightning with more open ice went about as well you think it would against the Red Wings. Hedman and Luke Schenn (!) connected for a nice play to get the puck down low. Schenn spotted Anthony Cirelli (who may have been +205 to score a goal according to certain online gambling establishments) inside the right circle and put the puck on his stick. The center finished off the nice passing play to double the Lightning’s lead.
Anthony Cirelli (Luke Schenn, Victor Hedman)
The Red Wings had their hands full dealing with the Lightning forwards, so when the defenseman became involved on the offense they were lost. For the Lightning’s third goal Blake Coleman won a puck battle along the boards and hit a wide open Ryan McDonagh in the middle of the ice. McDonagh slotted the puck home for his first goal of the season and the rout was on.
Ryan McDonagh (Blake Coleman)
It was one of the most dominating five minute stretches to start a game that we’ve ever seen the Lightning play. It wasn’t just that they scored three times, the puck seemed to be in the Detroit end the entire time. The Red Wings hadn’t recorded a shot attempt, let alone a shot on goal during that entire flurry of action.
Thomas Greiss was pulled following the third goal and replaced by Cal Pickard. From that point on, Detroit’s play stabilized a bit. The scoreboard likely affected the play a little as well as the Lightning weren’t quite as crisp as they had been at the start of the period, but Detroit finally organized themselves in the defensive zone a little.
With about eight minutes to go in the period, the Red Wings found some semblance of an offense as they strung together a couple of solid shifts and pinned the Lightning in their own zone for a bit. Vasilevskiy had to be sharp as Fabbri snapped a wrister from a dangerous spot.
The Red Wings had another solid chance when Valteri Filppula had a semi-breakaway that Vasilevskiy gloved aside.
By the end of the period things had stabilized a little everywhere except for the scoreboard. At 5v5 play the Lightning carried a minimal advantage in shot attempts (8-6) while scoring chances were almost even at 5-4 Tampa Bay. While Coach Cooper was ecstatic at the start, he likely had words about how things ended in the period.
The Lightning started the period on the power play against the 31st ranked penalty kill as Sam Gagner had committed an infraction as the first period faded away. The Red Wings killed it off by getting their sticks in the lanes and denying solid opportunities until the very end when Johnson unleashed a slapsot that Pickard gloved.
Vasilevskiy made things interesting as he turned the puck over behind his net, but Mantha’s pass skipped over Vlad Namestnikov’s stick and Detroit couldn’t capitalize.
To this point (a foreshadowing pun) Detroit had at least kept the big offensive guns off of the scoreboard. That wasn’t to be the case as the top line found paydirt following a Lightning penalty kill. Steven Stamkos circled behind the Detroit net and his wrist shot /pass hit a skate right in front of the net. The puck bounced to Brayden Point who quickly elevated it into the back of the net. There wasn’t much Pickard could do on that one.
Brayden Point (Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat)
MIdway through the period, the Lightning lost the shutout when the puck didn’t bounce their way. In the offensive zone a pass hopped over Mikhail Sergachev’s stick. Since he had activated, Tyler Johnson was back protecting the blue line. Johnson tried to chip the puck away from Anthony Mantha, but the big forward was able to use his reach to control it and broke in on the Lightning goal. He made a nice move to chip it over Vasilevskiy’s stick arm and into the back of the net.
Anthony Mantha (Christian Djoss)
If you let the Lightning make their cross-ice, diagonal passes then you’re going to be in for a bad time. Detroit did just that following their goal and Sergachev flipped a shot toward the net that Alex Killorn deflected into the net. Unfortunately, his stick was over the crossbar and the goal was overturned…….wait, it wasn’t? Following a review, referee Kevin Rooney confirmed that the goal was good. When you’re struggling, things just don’t go your way.
Alex Killorn (Mikhail Sergachev, Blake Coleman)
Then old friend Filppula hooked down Sergachev in the Lightning zone to put the Lightning back on the power play. The Lightning had a couple of looks, but couldn’t put the puck home. As has been the pattern in this game, they soon committed a penalty of their own as the power play expired.
There wasn’t much action on the Red Wings power play, or for the rest of the period for that matter. Both teams seemed content to get the period over and it ended, 5-1.
The Lightning went on the power play early in the period following a missed two-on-one chance by the Red Wings (Filppula’s pass to his teammate was well behind him). There wasn’t a tremendous sense of urgency with the extra attacker, but a steady build-up of passes in the zone led to a good chance for Killorn to rip a shot from the left circle that Pickard stopped.
The third period kind of plodded along for the first ten minutes, without a lot of action in the Lightning zone. It’s the type of period that has occasionally led to issues for Vasilevskiy in the past, but he seemed sharp when he was tested about nine minutes in when Erne had a prime chance in front of the net but Vasilevskiy easily knocked it aside.
Some credit due to the Lightning as they kept up the pressure throughout the period. They didn’t sit back and let Detroit gather some confidence, rather they kept pushing the puck into the zone and it led to a couple of chances for Gourde and Johnson (although Johnson did shake up Cirelli a bit when he hit him in the back of the leg with about five minutes to go in the period).
Sam Gagner did sneak through the defense and break in alone on Vasilevskiy but the shot was left wanting. He beat Vasilevskiy on the backhand, but the puck caught the crossbar and caroomed away harmlessly. That would be one of the few chances the Red Wings were able to generate over the final 20 minutes as the Lightning really clamped down defensively. Unlike the games against Nashville where they let the Predators come back a little, there was no give on their defense and they closed out the game with no drama.
The final stats showed matched what we watched on the ice as the Lightning dominated in all situations. They controlled 58% of the shot attempts on the ice (38-27) and 60% of the scoring chances (21-14) according to Natural Stat Trick.
Friday will see the two teams face-off against each other once again, and we shouldn’t really expect a different outcome.