There is no testament to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s utter dominance quite like their recent history against the Detroit Red Wings. The Bolts entered Thursday night’s tilt in the Motor City as the holders of an impressive NHL record.
The Lightning’s fourteen straight regular season wins against the Wings are not only good enough for a franchise record, but a league high. The last time Detroit bested Tampa Bay was all the way back in November of 2015.
After beating Detroit at home in convincing fashion less than a week ago, the Bolts absolutely pounded one of the league’s best, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s easy to imagine their confidence was sky high. It would be crucial for the Bolts not to overlook a division foe they have owned, yet barely squeaked by on the road earlier this season.
The Lightning did not look like themselves in the opening moments of this hockey game. After having a monstrous game on the forecheck Monday in Toronto, the Wings spent the majority of the first few minutes in the Lightning zone. A screened Andrei Vasilevskiy watched Madison Bowie open the scoring early.
A Good Response, then a Shorthanded Goal
The first period was essentially dominated by Tampa Bay. That is aside from a stretch of a few minutes, and one ten-second gaffe. After the Wings controlled play early, the Bolts began to ratchet up their forecheck. Their defense was more aggressive, as Victor Hedman was nearly in the corner for one of many quality chances as the Bolts gained momentum.
A power play seemed like just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, JT Miller made a pinch at the blue line and got beaten, and the Lightning’s aggression bit them. Nikita Kucherov was left as the only man back on a 2-on-1 and covered the pass, but Darren Helm sniped one past Vasilevskiy to put the Red Wings up 2-0
Warming to the Task
As the period went on, the Lightning dominated, and did everything but score a goal. Mathieu Joseph had the closest call. He rang one off the iron after one of a multitude of lengthy stays in the Detroit end. The Bolts outshot the Wings 12-6 in the frame. They had a whopping 32 shot attempts. Unfortunately, they did miss the net more than ten times and couldn’t get on the board in the first.
In the early second, it was difficult to discern who was carrying play. That is until Justin Abdelkader scored on just the third shot of the period. Each team had one shot on goal in a rather tame start to the period. Then Abdelkader got the outside edge and snuck in behind the defense to beat Vasilevskiy. On just their eighth shot, the Red Wings went up 3-0. It seemed at this point that Detroit was cashing in on every legitimate look they had.
It’s only fitting that Steven Stamkos tied Vincent Lecavailer in all time goals in a Lightning uniform on the power play. From the left circle. After the Bolts killed off a Detroit power play quite efficiently, a power play of their own was a huge boost, after Detroit had an empty net and nearly made it 4-0 moments earlier.
Stamkos drew the penalty, and in classic Stammer fashion put one by Howard from the left dot. He had far too much time and a wicked wrister was good for his 383rd career goal.
Levelled Out and Shut Down
After each team had their moment in the opening portion of the second, both had some good looks throughout the remaining minutes of the period. It was a far cry from the dominant first period in which the Bolts surrendered two. Tampa Bay, however, came inches from getting within one as time expired. Kucherov ripped one glove side on Howard, who got a piece of the bullet, and the rebound evaded Brayden Point. It was 3-1 after two.
Tough to Stop
There’s hardly another way to describe the line combination of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who created the aforementioned chance. They made it clear just how much of a mitt-full this super group was nearly immediately in the second period, threading a ridiculous tic-tac-toe play in the o-zone, finished off by Point.
The Point goal left the Lightning over eighteen minutes to search for the tying goal. As soon as they were offered any life, they pounced. A delay of game penalty to former Lightning Luke Witkowski earned a two minute minor. The Bolts needed just four seconds. Stamkos was called in when Miller was kicked out of the face off, putting Kucherov in the shooting position. He absolutely blasted it home just seconds after the won draw to tie the game.
Tampa Bay wasn’t done there. When they finally seized momentum, a Tyler Johnson redirect sucked any jump the Red Wings had left, giving the Lightning a 4-3 lead. It took Tampa Bay all of 26 seconds to turn a deficit into a lead, and just 7:04 to bury three.
Essentially the motto of Nikita Kucherov’s season, 86 piled on with his fourth point of the game on a nasty goal to extend the lead to 5-3. Point with the feed, and a fantastic finish top left by Kucherov. That goal ended up being the game-winner however, as a Detroit team that looked gassed managed a dirty one in the dying moments
Historic as Always
In the end, an incredible comeback earned the Lightning their 54th win this season, 5-4-good enough to best the total set last year. With 11 games to go. Not to mention Stamkos’ milestone and a new road-win mark as well, a four goal period and a 5-4 win was another night, another few records, for a Lightning team that just won’t quit.
Our Three Stars of the Game
- Nikita Kucherov- 2 G, 2 A- Simply dominant. Stat-line speaks for itself.
- Steven Stamkos- 1 G, 1 A- A milestone night as part of a makeshift line with Kucherov and Point that did nothing but dominate.
- Darren Helm- 1 G- Helm was all over the ice, specifically in the opening two periods.
The Bolts will head back to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena to take on Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Saturday night at 7PM.
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