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Cernak returns to make his mark as Lightning top Red Wings in OT

While the Tampa Bay Lightning roared back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, defenseman Erik Cernak found himself unable to finish that game due to taking a vicious check from Connor Murphy that led to Murphy receiving a five-minute major and a match penalty. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the hard-nosed Lightning defenseman’s status was up in the air.

However, Cernak not only returned to action, he made an indelible mark as the Lightning fought through more adversity, both conventional and unconventional (more on that shortly), to earn another notch in the win column.

Cernak tied the game in the third period with his first goal of the season, notched an assist, and got into a fight with Anthony Mantha, while Blake Coleman scored the overtime winner, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point added goals, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 20 of 23 shots to give the Lightning (18-4-2, 38 points) a 4-3 overtime win over the Red Wings (7-16-4, 18 points) at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. As a result, the Lightning maintained a one-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Central Division while also extending their points streak to nine games (8-0-1). On top of that, the Lightning extended their points streak over Detroit to a mind-boggling 20 games (19-0-1). Thomas Greiss took the loss for Detroit, stopping 25 of 29 shots, while Dylan Larkin, Patrik Nemeth, and Adam Erne tallied the goals for the Wings.

A questionable call was not the most bizarre thing about the opening period

Just 2:15 into this contest, Steven Stamkos took a penalty that shouldn’t have been a penalty when the officials whistled him for a double minor for high-sticking on the follow-through of a shot. Forty-nine seconds later, Erne, a former Lightning forward, collected a pass down low in the slot, beating Vasilevskiy to put the Wings up 1-0. During the remainder of the man-advantage, the Bolts dialed up the pressure on the penalty kill, including a shorthanded breakaway for Coleman, who failed to connect thanks to a big save by Greiss. But who knew that an iffy penalty call wouldn’t be the strangest story of this period?

Throughout the opening 20 minutes, the horn that sounds to signal the end of a period continued to blow during the action. At first, it only occurred at stoppages in play, but it soon began happening at regular intervals during game action. During the Lightning’s first power play, the players stopped skating due to the confusion caused by the horn blasting during play, leading to a stoppage in play while the Lightning were completing a zone entry into the offensive zone. Both teams continued to deal with the malfunctioning horn as the period went on.

The Lightning overcome an early deficit (and the horn)

The Lightning finally broke through and tied the game at the 12:29 mark. Point completed a gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing sequence on a power play, firing a shot from the slot past Greiss for his eighth of the season.

Johnson then got in on the act 35 seconds later, redirecting a long shot by Coleman past Greiss for his fifth of the season. During the intermission, Johnson offered his take on the renegade horn.

Defensive lapses in the second lead to Detroit retaking the lead

The good news for the Lightning in the second period? The horn got fixed. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, that was one of the few positives they could take away from the middle stanza of this game. Early on, the Lightning began tilting the ice in their favor, dialing up the pressure on the Red Wings and keeping the puck in Detroit’s zone for a few shifts in a row. However, the Bolts couldn’t cash in, and the Wings made them pay for it. Following the block of a Cal Foote shot, Detroit went the other way on a rush while changing lines in the process. Nobody in a Tampa Bay uniform picked up Nemeth trailing the play. Nemeth took a pass from Sam Gagner and ripped a long-range shot past Vasilevskiy, who was screened by Filip Zadina, tying the game 2-2 at 6:58.

Following Nemeth’s goal, Detroit began tilting the ice in the opposite direction, controlling play before eventually taking the lead at the 9:04 mark. Robby Fabbri gained entry at the Lightning blue line after a stretch pass from Filip Hronek. Ryan McDonagh got caught reaching to poke the puck from Fabbri, who feathered a pass to Larkin after Larkin got behind McDonagh. Skating with a clear path into the right faceoff circle, Larkin zipped a beauty of a shot past Vasilevskiy to put Detroit up 3-2. Both teams began continued to go back-and-forth over the remainder of the period, with the Wings holding that 3-2 lead going into the second intermission. Tampa Bay held a 19-18 edge in shots on goal through two periods, but Detroit out-shot the Lightning 12-6 in the second period.

The Lightning regain their form and Cernak ties it up

Over the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Lightning rediscovered their game and dominated the Red Wings in all facets, including puck possession and 5-on-5 play. At one point, Tampa Bay held Detroit without a shot on goal for nearly nine minutes of the third period. They continued to knock on the door, and eventually Cernak kicked it open with his first goal of the season, beating Greiss through the five hole from the right circle and tying the game 3-3 at the 9:40 mark with Pat Maroon getting the lone assist. Thanks to that goal, an assist on Johnson’s goal, and a second period fight with Anthony Mantha, Cernak earned the first Gordie Howe Hat Trick of his career. Cernak nearly put the Lightning ahead a couple of minutes later, but his shot bounced off the leg of Ondrej Palat and hit the post.

Coleman ends it after the Bolts catch the Wings on a line change

Larkin came close to potting the game-winner in OT has he was able to put a shot on goal from in close, but Vasilevskiy managed to corral the puck thanks to it going inside of his jersey. At the 2:17 mark, Coleman put the game on ice when he notched his fifth of the year. Mikhail Sergachev began the play deep in his own end, skating the puck towards his own blue line. Noticing the Red Wings were in the midst of a line change, he hit Johnson with a long pass to the opposite blue, creating a 2-on-1. Johnson slid the puck over to Coleman, who one-timed it past Greiss for the victory.

The Lightning and Red Wings meet up again Thursday night in Detroit for the second game of this two-game set. Puck drops at 7:30 pm EST.

Our Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Erik Cernak – Game-tying goal in the third period, one assist, and a fight to complete the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

2nd Star: Blake Coleman – Game-winning goal in overtime and one assist.

3rd Star: Tyler Johnson – One goal and the primary assist on Coleman’s OT game-winner.

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