The Detroit Red Wings entered tonight's tilt with the Lightning on a two-game winning streak and four-game point streak. Both those things ended in demoralizing fashion when Ondrej Palat salted the game away from the red line.
A first period that saw minimal scoring chances did not end with minimal scoring. Off a faceoff, Pavel Datsyuk won a battle behind the net and set up Daniel Alfredsson for a one-timer and a 1-0 Red Wings lead. They carried the lead into the intermission.
Palat took advantage of a power play early in the second when he buried a rebound off his original one-timer early on. Tomas Jurco restored the Red Wings lead on a nasty backhand from inside the right circle over Ben Bishop's shoulder. But if the Red Wings thought it wasn't enough to disappoint us on the power play, they gave up a goal to Tom Pyatt 4 seconds after Matt Carle's tripping penalty expired.
Then the Red Wings lost the third period 2-0. Air out of the tires. With both teams looking for the go-ahead goal, Alex Killorn gave it to the Lightning when he was wide open on the far post after the puck was thrown in front of the Red Wings crease from the corner. Palat sent the Lightning into the Olympic break with 2 points and the Red Wings with zero when he fired at the empty net from in front of the benches.
Jimmy Howard reportedly earned the third star of the night, and he deserved every 1/3 of it. From the glove save on the Red Wings power play (yes, he had to make a fabulous glove save when the Red Wings had the man advantage) to stopping Nikita Kucherov on the penalty shot, Howard has definitely returned to form.
- I walked into the game against the Panthers when Brian Lashoff scored his excuse-me empty net goal, but watching Pavel Datsyuk in this game made me wonder if he was really ready to return to the lineup. Playing on the wing instead of center usually means he's not at 100%, and I wonder if it was worth having him back for two games.
- On the other hand, what am I saying? Of course I take Datsyuk in the lineup versus out of it.
- This game was highly competitive and very evenly matched through the first 50 minutes. Then when Killorn scored to give Tampa their first lead of the night, not only did the Lightning take the lead, they seized the momentum in every sense of the phrase. When they scored, they immediately pressured the Red Wings net once play started again.
- More or less, once Killorn scored, I did not see the Red Wings touch the puck again until after Lashoff fouled Kucherov for the penalty shot. Where has that kind of play been for the Red Wings this year? I've gotten much too used to seeing the opposition try to get a goal against back immediately, leading to the Red Wings being hemmed in their own zone.
- But seriously: 'dat Jurco backhander. The kid line continues to make an impact. Too bad we may not see them against Montreal on the 26th.
- Speaking of things other teams do that I wish I could see the Red Wings try more often, that Killorn goal was scored after a puck was sent to the front of the net instead of back to the point. Especially on the power play, but even 5-on-5, I really wish the Red Wings would try their luck more often throwing pucks in the slot. (And no, having them blocked there doesn't count, although a blocked shot did lead to Jurco's goal when Riley Sheahan collected a loose puck in the high slot.) Especially on a lot of rushes that ended up with a player wheeling behind the opposing net, I kept waiting for a puck to be thrown out in front, hoping for a favorable bounce or even a direct pass to a teammate.
- I am fully in support of Jimmy Howard going to the Olympics, but can we please beat Ben Bishop in a game sometime this decade? Or is he going to be against the Red Wings what Chris Osgood used to be for the Lightning? *shudder*
Hey, have you checked out the standings? People in the gamethreads have already been scoreboard watching, and it's going to matter a hell of a lot when NHL hockey returns. The Red Wings will have 24 games remaining when they return on February 26 against the Montreal Canadiens. What was once a battle for the final two wild card spots is becoming a dogfight for the eighth and final playoff spot because Toronto is somehow pulling away. Breathing room could have been had with another 2 points in this game, and while the Red Wings will go into the break with said playoff spot intact, Ottawa having lost to Boston and Columbus idle, the playoff streak will be in as precarious a position as the Red Wings' current 1-point lead over 9th place.
Have a happy Olympics everyone. Make good choices.