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Resurgent Wings Beat the Lightning

I know some in the sport writing profession are guilty of hyperbole. Some of you might think I crossed this line with the headline of this piece. Don’t believe the Detroit Red Wings are resurgent? As good as the Tampa Bay Lightning have played recently, winners of four of their last five, the Wings are just two points behind Lightning in the division. The resurgent moniker is legit. If the Wings can beat the Lightning tonight at Amalie Arena, the two teams would be tied after the 25 game mark of the season. If the Lightning win, they show these Red Wings, they have more work to do.

Former Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been at the helm at Detroit since 2019. This isn’t the same franchise it was back then. As he did here with the Lightning, Yzerman is putting his stamp on this Detroit organization and the players are responding on the ice, where it matters most. Are they ready to challenge the big boys of the Atlantic Division? If the Lightning have anything to say about it, the Detroiters will just have to wait.

Former Lightning Associate Coach Derek Lalonde is now the Head Coach for Detroit. Spent four years at Jon Cooper’s side behind the Lightning bench. Was here for two Cup championships. He knows Cooper and most of the Lightning roster as well as any opposing coach in the league. Lalonde now  is responsible for these resurgent Wings. Could Lalonde make a difference?

From the Jump

Considering both teams are so close in the standings, the game mirrored that fact. Both clubs enjoyed offensive zone time. They also had their goalies stand tall against some very good scoring chances. Ville Husso for Detroit struck aside every shot the Lightning made. There were some very good opportunities for Tampa but Husso turned everything away.

The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy was equally adept at keeping the Wings off the scoresheet. That included a breakaway attempt by Dominic Kubalik where Vasilevskiy stoned him. There was a power play chance for the Lightning. They didn’t score but they didn’t give up a short handed goal so there’s that.

Far from a playoff atmosphere, this game in this first period seemed closer to a pre-season game with the giveaways and turnovers especially by the Lightning. This kind of uninspired play seem to play into Detroit’s benefit. They are the new kids in town, looking for a chance to compete with a perennial big dog. It was a sloppy and plodding kind of period again, especially for the Lightning. Back and forth the teams went. When the period ended, it was a scoreless tie. The stats were virtually the same for both. What would we see in the second?

Resurgent Upstarts Starting Up

The second period began as the first played out. At least for the first two minutes. Then the resurgence was apparent. Michael Rasmussen lit the lamp putting the puck past Vasilevsky to open the game’s scoring. Now with a 1-0 lead, the Wings started to play even more  relaxed.

Detroit was winning the battle in the neutral zone as the game went on. In some line matchups, the visitors seemed to be a half step faster than the Lightning. Even when Tampa got the puck in Detroit’s zone, they had difficulty sustaining any kind of pressure on Husso and the Red Wing defense.

The more the game went on, the steadier the Wings seem to play. Making it difficult when the Lightning were in their zone trying to get out. Beating the Lightning in the neutral zone building up their takeaway stats. If the Lightning were fortunate enough to get the puck in the Wings zone, it was one and done. The middle frame ended with Detroit holding onto their 1-0 lead. Having played a lackluster period, would the Lightning be able to change the dynamic of this game in the final period?

Battle for Two Points

The Lightning were determined to change the  pace of this game. After only getting 16 shots on goal through the first  two periods, they matched that number in the first 10 minutes. Tampa started to get more and more time in Detroit’s zone. Husso and his defense remained strong. Some teams bend but don’t break. Between the Wings and Lightning, Detroit wasn’t the team that bent.

At the six minute mark, Jonatan Berggren scored the Wings second goal. Now, in this type of game this 2-0 lead seems insurmountable. To their credit, the Lightning were not about to go off quietly in the good night. They were buzzing in Detroit’s zone. Cooper pulled a little surprise with just under six minutes left. He pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra skater. The plan worked. Steven Stamkos notched his 14th goal of the season from his office on the right dot.

Frantic Finish

Okay, now it’s 2-1 Red Wings and with the way that the Lightning are dominating the Wings in their zone, Cooper pulls Vasilevskiy again. Man, the boys are flying and peppering Husso with shots from every which way. Former Lightning Adam Erne jumped on a loose puck and flung it towards the Lightning end. Wouldn’t you know, it was a seeing-eye puck. Went straight into the empty net for a 3-1 Detroit lead 3:38 left to go.

The Lightning buzz saw kept coming and Braydon Point got his team to within one goal again with about two and a half minutes left. At  the earliest moment he could, Cooper pulls his goalie for an extra skater and again they had chances. Husso stopped everything that came his way. With 25 seconds left, David Perron scored the empty netter that gave us the final 4-2 score.

Three Stars

  1. Ville Husso – Detroit goalie was pummeled with 46 shots, saved 44 of them
  2. Steven Stamkos – One goal, won 65% of his face offs
  3. Jonatan Berggren – One goal, netted his 8th point in his 12th NHL game

What’s Next

Thursday night at Amalie Arena at 7:00 pm against the Nashville Predators. Note: Former Lightning Ryan McDonagh was placed on injured reserve this Monday. He is expected to be out for two to four weeks with an upper body injury.

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