The Detroit Red Wings traveled to Florida to begin their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and after one game, Detroit has its work cut out for itself if it hopes to win more games in this series, but on this night, Petr Mrazek absolutely stole the show, along with a good effort from Detroit's defense in limiting chances and being in the right place at the right time to deny players shots with open nets.
Both teams settled into the matchup game, and Tampa Bay had the early push with its home-ice advantage. Off a cycle in the Lightning's zone, though, Kyle Quincey, the man who had an underrated great season, finally got a puck through to the net off a great shot fake. The shot deflected off Quincey's man up top and then Pavel Datsyuk took care of the rest, putting Detroit on top 1-0. After so many years of Detroit dominating the shots and then giving up a goal on the opponent's first or second shot on goal, it was nice to have the shoe on the other foot this time.
The Red Wings got a power play hoping to take a 2-0 lead, but Marek Zidlicky had other ideas. After holding the puck until Boyle was breathing down his neck, our trade deadline acquisition forced pass that hit Boyle and went out to center ice. Petr Mrazek had no chance on the ensuing breakaway, with Boyle making great use of his size and reach advantage to deke past Mrazek for a shorthanded goal. Detroit did an OK job limiting much action and being in good position to provide layers of coverage support, and the period ended with Anton Stralman crashing into Mrazek on the rush.
We finally saw some urgency on the power play, as Datsyuk scored his second of the game eight seconds into the second period. After winning the faceoff forward to where the Lightning didn't have a forward, Darren Helm followed the puck along the half wall, won the battle and fed a pass to the slot where Datsyuk got a clean shot on Bishop in front of a Tomas Jurco screen. The power play goal gave Detroit a 2-1 lead, but would not be a sign of things to come for Detroit.
Tampa Bay absolutely took it to Detroit the rest of the way. Though Detroit did a pretty good job of taking away chances in the first period, it was open season on Mrazek the rest of the way. Detroit's possession of the puck took a nosedive, and the absurdity of the shot differentials reared its ugly head. Despite trading penalties and power plays and 4-on-4 situations, Tampa controlled the play.
Domination continued at even strength for the Lightning, and this time it led to multiple power play opportunities. On the second Detroit penalty of the period, Tampa Bay had Detroit hemmed in their own zone for more than a minute. Luke Glendening got a stick on a puck in a passing lane and won a loose puck battle to get it out of the zone.
Shift change time, right?
Glendening pursued the puck on tired legs and got it toward the bottom of the circle to Bishop's left. He took it to the middle and did a spin-o-rama to protect the puck from our old friend Valtteri Filppula, and Bishop wasn't expecting a backhand shot to trickle between his legs for a 3-1 Detroit lead. As Kyle would say, #RE41PECT.
All that pressure was going to boil over, though. Again, the Lightning hemmed Detroit in its own zone. Alex Killorn hit a crossbar. A few seconds later, Nikita Nesterov thanked the Red Wings for being so generous with ice, so he took it from the blue line and skated it into the slot. Shot, goal, pucker time, as Detroit had a 3-2 lead with too much time left on the clock.
Detroit's offense the rest of the way sputtered in a bunch of one-and-done forays to Bishop's end of the ice. The Lightning offense looked like a team desperate to tie the game. Mrazek stood tall, and a last-second penalty against Detroit ended up not mattering. Detroit wins and takes a 1-0 lead in the series.
- Kudos to Petr Mrazek, tonight's No. 1 star of the game for coming up with some big stops. Funnily enough, he also almost helped Detroit's demise, as his eagerness to play the puck behind the net almost cost him on a couple occasions. The Red Wings can't let that much vulcanized rubber fly in Mrazek's direction, and Mrazek can't be so travel-happy outside his crease.
- Another key to Detroit winning this series? The line of Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar can't get eaten alive the way they were tonight. Whether that means riding out Game 2 and hoping to find a favorable matchup in Detroit or breaking it up, those three absolutely need to be better the rest of the series.
- Time to enjoy the win! Jonathan Ericsson had a strong game, despite all our cries and hopes for someone else to take his place next to Niklas Kronwall. Credit to Riggy for playing mostly mistake-free and also helping shut down some rushes with key blocks.
- Alexey Marchenko justified head coach Mike Babcock's decision to have him in the lineup over Brendan Smith. He had his moments that looked otherwise, but even without grading on the rookie curve, he provided an impact.
- How about Luke Glendening? The man deserves a ton of credit for hustling on his goal when his legs were probably shot.
- The Red Wings gave up tons of chances against, but credit to the players for being in good position to take away bodies and sticks especially when they had open nets to shoot at. Giving up that number of chances certainly isn't ideal, but they got in front of a lot of them and helped keep the goals down.
- More credit to be handed out tonight: Kyle Quincey had a strong game, and when Danny DeKeyser wasn't taking penalties, he also made some great plays, including a bone-crunching hit on Filppula to sniff out a zone entry.
Detroit has its work cut out for itself, but we'll all certainly take a 1-0 series lead and home-ice advantage. The two teams will get back at it for Game 2 on Saturday in the same place. One down, 15 to go. Enjoy the win, everybody!