The Tampa Bay Lightning played as well as anyone could’ve hoped. On the second leg of a back, against a non-playoff team, they played with a purpose. They played physical, had a relentless forecheck, defended well, possessed the puck and dominated a majority of the game. Tampa Bay’s third line was the driving force behind the win and was all over the ice. The Defense also played extremely well. Structured in their approach and tenacity, they were able to keep Detroit’s scoring chances to a minimum. Tampa Bay picked up 3-of-4 points this weekend and have won 5 of their last 6.
Third Line Consistency
The third line was spectacular in Sunday’s win over the Red Wings. The line of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow have been arguably the most consistent line for Tampa Bay all year. Fast, Physical and relentless, they started every period for the Lightning Sunday, and contributed the first tally just 16 seconds into the game. On a great forechecking play, Goodrow and Gourde would combine to force a turnover behind the net. The puck would end up with Goodrow who was able to find an open Coleman in the slot who zipped it past Johnathan Bernier.
For Coleman, it was his 5th goal in the last 6 games and his 13th on the year. For a team dealing with injuries to star offensive players, this cannot be overlooked. Each member of the third line would contribute an assist and combine for 4 points. They drove the offensive attack with their physicality and relentlessness.
The Lightning dominated much of this game. It was arguably one of their most complete games in recent memory, even if it was against Detroit. Tampa Bay was physical, the were quick to pucks and their puck retrieval was spectacular. As Christopher Gibson said in his postgame interview “The puck was in [Detroit’s] zone most of the night”. There were times when the Lightning hemmed the wings in their own zone for minutes at time. Tampa Bay outshot Detroit 19-6 in the first, and 17-9 in the second. They managed the puck very well and shot the puck from everywhere. Despite only scoring two goals, it was a very complete effort.
Defense wins Championships
Two weeks ago there were major concerns about the Lightning’s defense game heading into the playoffs. turnovers and breakdowns lead to prime scoring opportunities for opponents and it cost them games. There was none of that Sunday as the Bolts put together another, in a string of very solid defensive performances. They were tight on Detroit from the very start and allowed them very little room to operate. For the short time the Lightning did cede some possession to Detroit, they were able to limit any looks at Gibson. The Lightning were even able to kill off a stacked 5-on-3 which lasted a combined 2 minutes. It was not perfect as any hockey game rarely is. They gave up a few odd man rushes, one of which lead to the Wings’ only goal, but it is miles better from what we saw two weeks ago.
Over the last three games Tampa Bay has given up just 1 goal, including back-to-back shutouts against Dallas and Detroit. Over the last 6 games, the Bolts have given up more than 3 goals once in a 7-4 win over Chicago. Jon Copper said postgame, “to win you have to be able to close out games”, which they did. This improvement in the defensive play of the team is exactly what one would hope to see heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
First Star- Blake Coleman: He picked up a goal and an assist along with 7 shots on goal.
Second Star- Johnathan Bernier: He played spectacular today and was very busy. He stopped 40 of 42 shots, including a huge save on Mathieu Joseph right before Detroit’s goal.
Third Star- Christopher Gibson: He picked up his first win in the NHL since 2018, stopped 22-of-23, and made a multiple saves during the extended 5-on-3 to keep the game tied.
The Lightning will play their final 2 home games of the season against a Desperate Dallas Stars team. Dallas sits 3 points out of a playoff spot with just 5 games remaining. Then a short trip to sunrise to face the Florida Panthers. Although first place might be out of the picture for Tampa Bay, the 2nd seed and home ice in the first round is still very much attainable. With the win Sunday over Detroit the Lightning tied the Panthers with 73 points and still have a game at hand vaulting them into 2nd place. However, they will have to defend that spot during the final 2 games of the season against Florida.
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