The Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed the Detroit Red Wings into their house for the first time since Steve Yzerman took the reigns as Tampa's new general manager and the Red Wings proved less-than-stellar houseguests for the talented Tampa squad. Whether it's a combination of the Wings looking sharp through fifty minutes or the Lightning not being on their game is up for debate, but the fact is that after laying a 6-2 drubbing on the Southeast Division leader, the Wings have won 3 games in a row for the first time since early January.
Even better news, the concerns about a lackluster power play and a PK that simply wasn't getting the job done gets another day's reprieve, as the Wings went 2-for-3 with the man advantage while holding Tampa Bay off the scoreboard in five opportunities, including six nearly-uninterrupted minutes of power play time in the first. While I think Detroit probably only should have gotten three power plays on the night, I wasn't happy with the way they were called. I would have gladly traded a relatively weak goaltender interference call on Lecavalier for a much better call on Downie and would have gladly traded an insanely weak delay-of-game on Roloson for an even more obvious charge on the same Downie.
Jimmy Howard was strong in this game, stopping 38 of 40 shots, including all 20 in a third period marked by a Red Wings club playing in a defensive shell against a very good offensive team. Howard had to be bailed out a couple of times on rebounds, but I thought his positioning was strong and he bailed out his teammates more often than he needed to be bailed out himself. Neither of the two goals were on him and he earned a +3 rating (above average, not stellar) with his three big saves. The first two big saves came back-to-back in the first around the 12:30 mark. Jimmy got the pad down on a Downie shot at the side of the net coming off a rebounded Stamkos shot from the point on a power play. The second was a deflected shot through traffic from the point that ended that same power play. The third big save came in the third period as Eaves gave the puck away and Howard had to make a very fast adjustment to pick up the puck and get on his post before the Bolts jammed it in.
Reminder, the H2H2 Pledge Drive continues until March 5th.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 6:40 - Detroit Goal (PP): Danny Cleary (tip in) from Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg
The Wings are on a power play because of a smart play where Zetterberg dumps it high into the Tampa Bay Zone while Ericsson rushes in to pressure the defense. Having the huge Ericsson bearing down causes Randy Jones to mentally lapse and grab the puck, taking a delay-of-game. On the man advantage, Cleary and Kronwall combine to get the puck into the zone on Roloson's left side. Cleary skates it low and dishes to Kronwall skating back higher to the zone while the Newfie forward goes to the net. Kronwall passes to Hank, who gets it to Lidstrom at the point. Lidstrom takes a couple steps toward the middle of the ice and fires a slapshot which Cleary deflects past Roloson. Zetterberg and Ericsson each get a half-plus for creating the power play. Cleary and Kronwall will each get a half-assist for bringing the play into the zone to set up on the power play.
Penalty Adjustment (x2): Immediately after the first goal, the Wings are buzzing again, but Hudler gets called for tripping up Hedman on a rebound chance and goes to the box. After killing the Hudler penalty,Kindl does some facial surgery on Adam Hall and gets himself a double-minor for high-sticking. Hudler and Kindl each get a minus.
1st Period 14:57 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (backhand) from Danny Cleary and Niklas Kronwall
The play begins behind Detroit's net, where Kronwall bounces one off the boards to Pavel. Datsyuk looks off Gagne and makes one quick move to break the Bolts' forechecking pressure before heading up ice with numbers. Coming into the zone on an overload of the left side, Pavel passes off to Cleary at the blue line after gaining the zone to create room on the rush. Cleary allows the play to develop with Datsyuk and Hudler going to the net before firing a low slap shot on Roloson. The goalie stops the shot, but kicks the rebound out front. Hudler gets tied up by two defenders, giving Datsyuk room to come behind the play and put the puck into the open net. Hudler gets an assist for tying up the D-men. Datsyuk's move to break the pressure back in his own zone will get him a half-plus.
2nd Period 11:51 - Tampa Bay Goal: Victor Hedman (tip in) from Simon Gagne
The Lightning pressure Ericsson as he picks it up at his own blue line and skates it back into his own zone with two forecheckers on him. E tries to go up the boards to Bertuzzi, but it ends up going through Bert's feet and to Purcell. Purcell throws it deeper into the zone straight to Rafalski, who turns over the to Gagne puck trying to flip it high out of the middle of the zone. Pressured immediately by Zetterberg, Gagne gets it to Hedman, who fires into the traffic where it deflects off Ericsson to break the shutout. Ericsson will get an extra minus for deflecting it in past his goalie. My understanding of hockey is that this is what's called a "No-No". Rafalski's low-line drive clear up the middle is an egregious turnover worth one-and-a-half minuses. Bertuzzi will also get a half-minus for letting Ericsson's pass go right through his skates. Franzen will not get a minus; he was the only player whose positioning didn't leave him an opportunity to make a play he should have made.
2nd Period 14:38 - Tampa Bay Goal: Steve Downie (wrist shot) from Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis
After a few good chances by Detroit, Tampa Bay steals and heads up ice with speed. Downie gets it at the blue line and feeds it to Clark for a shot attempt that's flubbed by a failed stick. Unfortunately, the puck gets right by Zetterberg to St Louis, who has lost Rafalski going behind the net. St Louis goes through Zetterberg to Stamkos standing wide open out front. Stamkos flubs the shot, but it bounces fortuitously straight to Downie coming into the slot, who puts it past a sprawling Howard. Zetterberg will get an extra minus for both missing the Clark pass and the St Louis pass. Rafalski will get an extra half-minus for losing St Louis on the play. Kronwall will get a half-minus for not picking up Downie coming low. Both Miller and Bertuzzi keep their minuses for failure to stop the original Downie-to-Clark connection at the blue line.
2nd Period 16:34 - Detroit Goal (PP): Niklas Kronwall (wrist shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom
With Vincent Lecavalier in the box for a soft goalie interference call, the Wings retake the lead; immediately off a faceoff win, Detroit sets up in an umbrella formation with Lidstrom passing off to Z on the left side for a cross-ice pass that gets to Kronwall on the backhand (preventing him from unleashing a one-timer). Kronner collects the puck and throws it just wide at the traffic in front looking for a Cleary tip. Instead, the puck deflects off Hedman's skate and in. Cleary will get the screener's assist on this goal.
2nd Period 18:00 - Detroit Goal: Justin Abdelkader (wrist shot) from Tomas Holmstrom and Jakub Kindl
Abdelkader wins an offensive zone faceoff and the puck goes behind the Tampa Bay net where Miller fights through two Lightning players to poke it to Holmstrom in the clear. The Tampa defense gives Holmstrom space directly behind their own net as they try to reset and cover his passing lanes. With time, Homer finds Kindl at the half-boards, who fires a wrister at Roloson, which isn't controlled well. Homer picks it up and pushes it to Abby standing on the back door all alone with enough time to control the puck and slam it home. Miller will get an assist and a bonus plus. His hard work in the corner to clear it to Holmstrom as well as the fact that he has both Tampa Bay defensemen draped on him after the Kindl shot, leaving Abdelkader open for the easy goal is what makes this happen. Abdelkader's face off win and work getting the puck low is good for a bonus half-plus.
Penalty Adjustment: shortly after the Abdelkader goal, Ericsson has an offensive-zone keep-in attempt blocked by Downie and he gets his stick in Downie's feet to prevent him from getting behind Ericsson, tripping the guy in the process. Ericsson will get a minus.
3rd Period 11:39 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrist shot) from Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary
Off a Tampa Bay offensive zone cycle which ends in a turnover to Hudler, the two wingers on the top line head up ice 2-on-3. Hudler gets stopped up at center and dishes to Cleary. Then, Cleary gets challenged and tries to dump it in, but it bounces off a stick straight to Hudler coming into a soft spot in the coverage with speed. Hudler pulls up at the outside of the top of the faceoff circle and finds Datsyuk streaking alone through the middle of the ice. Hudler threads a beautiful backhand pass to him to break him in by himself against the goalie. Pavel pulls a simple backhand-forehand deke and roofs it over the blocker for the Wings' fifth goal. Hudler's pass is beautiful enough to warrant an extra half-assist.
3rd Period 18:09 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) unassisted
Helm blocks a dump-in attempt from Hedman and goes off to the races. He freezes the goalie skating straight in with his blade always in shooting position (flat against the back of the puck), and rips it through the five-hole for the extra insurance goal. This one is all Helm and he'll get an extra plus for the defensive work leading to the steal and eventual goal.
+0.5 to Todd Bertuzzi: He made three very good backchecking moves in his own zone in this game. Two in the first period and the third during the last frame while the Lightning were pouring on shots trying to come back.
+0.5 to Brian Rafalski: I punished him severely for the mistakes he deserved to be punished for, but he also made a couple of very good heads-up plays to help diminish those mistakes. One particular play where he drew in two forecheckers and took a hit to get the puck past the pressure in the first period stands out.
+1 to Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall: Stuart's first game back was an excellent 21-minute effort worth of solid defensive play where he consistently cut off angles in the zone and bodied men off pucks. For Kronwall, repeat everything I said about Stuart except for the first game back part.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom: Matched up against the Bolts' top guys all night and leading the Wings in ice time, Lidstrom managed to hold a shots advantage over his competition, even though his team would be outshot by 9. Eventually, you just run out of superlatives to describe how well he plays defense.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk: Overall, the best Wings player on the ice in this game. There's nothing Datsyuk can't do.
Honorable Mentions: The Abdelkader "slash" was a terrible call, so he didn't get a minus for that. Ultimately, I thought the whole team played well again and it was hard not giving out a whole slew of pluses for play which I'm coming to expect to be ordinary again.
Up next for the Wings: Sunrise, Florida and the Panthers. Hopefully Nick's sunburn doesn't bother him too much. Didn't seem to hurt his game much against Tampa.