Heading into their final home game of 2019, the Tampa Bay Lightning were picking up steam. Their power play was clicking, they’d won back-to-back games in two promising fashions. A total annihilation, then a never-say-die comeback. Next up, a very favourable matchup historically.
The Bolts had beaten the Detroit Red Wings in 15 consecutive regular season games entering Sunday’s contest. The matchup really couldn’t have been more ideal. The Wings had lost five in a row. Then again, there’s nobody Detroit would rather beat than their former playoff rival. Power play success would prove crucial in racking up yet another win over the Wings, in what was unsurprisingly a tight hockey game.
Wings set the tone
Early on, Detroit proved they were no laughing matter, by generating the first few quality scoring chances of the game. The Brayden Point line burst onto the ice and Point had a good look off the rush on his first shift. The next few shifts, however, saw the Wings generate three dangerous opportunities, including a Luke Glendening clear-cut-breakaway. Luckily for the Lightning, Curtis McElhinney was there to shut the door.
Power play pressure
One penalty changed the course of the first period radically. Pat Maroon, who was in the box earlier in the frame for a minor the Lightning swiftly killed off, drew a penalty, and the league’s top power play got a chance to operate. The puck was on a string for the entire two minutes and the Bolts generated four shots on net.
They essentially did everything but score, and Jonathan Bernier stood on his head during an onslaught of a man-advantage. The shot clock tilted in Tampa Bay’s favour, as they gained energy from the chances they were able to create.
Levelling the playing field
Tampa Bay once had a 13-6 shot advantage, but Detroit threw a barrage of pucks at McElhinney in the closing moments of the period. The Lightning took a 13-9 shot advantage into the dressing room. All in all, it was an opening frame dominated by the goaltenders. Both were called upon to make some timely saves, and both delivered.
Sometimes the easiest way to beat a hot goaltender is just getting back to basics. Getting pucks and bodies to the net. That’s exactly what Tampa Bay did off a face-off and it paid dividends. Kevin Shattenkirk loaded up from the point and Ondrej Palat redirected it home to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The puck was skipping in towards the post and Bernier didn’t stand a chance.
Late in the period, the Wings fired back with a nasty deflection of their own to tie the game. Robby Fabbri got a stick on a puck that was by all means headed wide of the net. It beat McElhinney and the teams were tied 1-1 after forty minutes.
Though Tampa Bay were outshooting the Wings 27-14 after two frames, they were tied heading into the third, and one mistake could lead to their losing the contest. This would be a huge third period for the Bolts, as they looked to win three games in a row for just the third time this season. A victory would go a long way in building Tampa Bay’s confidence moving forward.
Power play finally connects
Just like in the first period, the Bolts had a power play in the second that did everything but score. It generated five shots on goal. The best two looks belonged to Point and Nikita Kucherov, with the Point chance being the most dangerous of the two. He was wide open for a fantastic point blank opportunity but Bernier shut him down.
In the third, Point got his redemption. The Bolts headed to another power play, and this time Point beat Bernier over the shoulder from a tough angle. Bernier was crouching, and Point wired it short-side to give the Bolts a 2-1 lead.
To close out the game, McElhinney was called upon on numerous occasions. Though he only made 19 saves in this hockey game, many of them were quality looks, including a second breakaway. Thanks to a few last second saves, and quality team defense throughout the third, Tampa Bay would hold on for a 2-1 win.
Our three stars of the game
- Brayden Point: 1 goal: Point had several great opportunities right from his first shift of the night, including the game-winning goal.
- Kevin Shattenkirk: 1 assist: Shattenkirk activated well from the point throughout the game and could’ve been involved in multiple goals.
- Curtis McElhinney: 19 saves: McElhinney was excellent when called upon and made a pair of breakaway saves.
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