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The Tampa Bay Lightning open the playoffs for a third year in a row (2nd at home against the Detroit Red Wings), but this year they’ll have to start the playoffs with captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman. Pretty much the exact same team from a season minus Brenden Morrow and the currently injured players. How would this inconsistent team fare against a veteran Detroit Red Wings team without two of their best players? Can the Lightning be the team all the fans hoped they’d be all year? Was the team saving…. Their Best for Last?
The Red Wings dominated the opening period getting four shots on net before the Bolts got their first shot at 4:42 of the opening period. Then less than two short minutes later Nikita Kucherov did what Nikita Kucherov has done all year by burying a shot past Jimmy Howard for a 1-0 early lead. Detroit continued to pepper Bishop with shots in the first registering 12 shots to Tampa’s eight.
Detroit kept grinding into the Lightning resulting in a Mike Green shot from the top of the zone getting past Bishop to tie the game up 1-1. Just about two minutes later Justin Abdelkader gave the Red Wings their first lead of the game. Five minutes later Nikita Kucherov would strike again getting a goal on Jimmy Howard to tie the game 2-2. Detroit held a slight shot on goal advantage of 26-22 as the period came to an end.
If the Lightning hope to go into game two on Friday with a 1-0 series lead they needed to come out strong in the 3rd period…. and they didn’t. Just about seven minutes into the 3rd Hedman, Filppula and Drouin rushed into the offensive zone with an odd man rush. Unfortunately, when Jonathan Drouin passed the puck to Valterri Filppula, Drouin’s skate crossed the blue line before the puck causing an off sides call after Detroit challenged the goal. With just about 11 minutes left in the game Tyler Johnson who was questionable heading into tonight’s game sent a shot rocketing towards Jimmy Howard. At the last second Killorn would redirect it giving the Bolts a 3-2 lead. With less than four minutes left the Lightning would get really aggressive in the offensive zone, continuing to push the pace like they had for much of the third period. The Red Wings would make a late push after pulling Howard with under two minutes to go, but were unable to pick up the tying goal, giving the Lightning a 3-2 victory in Game 1. Following the final whistle, there was some pushing and shoving between the two teams, setting the stage for what should be a tense, physical series between these two teams.
3 Stars of the Game
3rd Star – Tyler Johnson: Two assists on the night after recovering from a nasty hit against Montreal.
2nd Star – Ben Bishop: Yes, he allowed 2 goals, but he kept the Lightning in the game allowing them to get the lead back in the 3rd.
1st Star – Nikita Kucherov: 2 goals and 1 assist… not a bad night for a guy who’s continuing his solid season into the playoffs.
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