After taking one of two games in Florida, the Detroit Red Wings welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series. With both teams looking to take control of this series with a win tonight, the Red Wings got some help from lineup reinforcements in Justin Abdelakder and Brendan Smith, and Petr Mrazek earned his first career playoff shutout.
Detroit had a good start. Both teams were fighting through the neutral zone just to get turned away once they gained the offensive blue line, but the Red Wings had their chances. One of those happened when Pavel Datsyuk ran an attempted give-and-go with Tomas Tatar across the blue line. Anton Stralman had Datsyuk covered, so Tatar did the next best thing: wind up and shoot. Who knows what happened, and we might find out on Thursday they change the scoring on this, but it looked like Tatar's shot deflected off Datsyuk's leg and Stralman's stick behind a flustered Ben Bishop.
The Red Wings followed up that goal with some putrid shifts that nearly gave away the lead. Some special teams play saw the teams trading power plays and Detroit giving up power plays by taking penalties, but once even strength play took over, Detroit started to control the game.
Detroit took over this game and dominated zone time. Scoring chances were a bit harder to come by, but the Red Wings owned the start of the second period. Of course the momentum was undone by taking penalties. First Luke Glendening made a hit away from the play for an interference minor, then 1:04 later, Danny DeKeyser fired the puck over the glass for 56-second 5-on-3 advantage for Tampa.
It was clench time. The Lightning had plenty of zone time. I'm pretty sure they hit two posts. Steven Stamkos felt such pressure to score on the two-man advantage, he conveniently turned it over and helped Detroit kill some time. Eventually, Detroit would kill off the two-man disadvantage.
After that kill, a run of special teams play made for a helter skelter end to the second period. Tampa Bay started getting their opportunities, making for nervous time as the third period began.
Tatar took a penalty early, but Detroit killed it off successfully. Detroit got a power play, and it ended early again. This time, Gustav Nyquist intercepted an attempted breakaway pass and gave it to Henrik Zetterberg. The captain carried over the blue line and found Justin Abdelkader in the circle, who found Riley "Shea-hands" Sheahan wide open in front of the net to finish off the play and make it 2-0 Detroit.
Tampa Bay started getting their chances, but at a certain point Steven Stamkos took his second tripping minor of the game. On the ensuing power play, a 50-50 puck at the top of the Lightning zone went to Brian Boyle, who was in on a shorthanded breakaway again. In Game 1, this resulted in a goal; tonight in Game 3, Mrazek was up to the task, stopping the initial shot AND the rebound.
In the same sequence, Cedric Paquette skated in front of Mrazek's crease to chase the play, and Mrazek intentionally got in his way, but stayed in his crease. Paquette's stick got caught in Mrazek's leg, so Paquette was off for goaltender interference but Abdelkader made sure that wouldn't stand. After all the contact Mrazek's taken in this series, Abdelkader came to the defense of his goaltender, chasing Paquette down and giving him some gentle reminders about the consequences of messing with the Red Wings goaltender.
Detroit snuffed out plenty of the remaining Tampa Bay chances. Mrazek stood tall, skaters got in shooting and passing lanes, and Luke Glendening iced the game away with an empty net goal by swiping the puck away to clear it into the empty net.
- Luke Glendening has two goals in this series. Valtteri Filppula has one.
- Going into the game, we all knew the insertion of Justin Abdelkader into the lineup would have a major impact on this game because of the lineup changes it triggered. Little did we know that those changes would absolutely stymie the Tampa Bay offense. Detroit got back to what made them so successful in the first half of the season, shutting down chances and forcing Tampa Bay to convert. The goose egg should tell the story.
- Brendan Smith also drew into the lineup, a move which frustrated some of us fans. Smith played a solid game and had a mean streak that didn't cross the line and was dialed in to the temperature of the game. Smith does have a tendency to play well after getting benched or being called out, but you hope he never has to go through that again and can just play well from the get-go.
- Steven Stamkos was a non-factor in this game. In fact, he took two minor penalties which helped by keeping him off the ice.
- Kudos to Petr Mrazek. His defense definitely helped him out a lot more than in Game 2, but he himself was just as stellar as he was in Game 1, without the nervous trips out of the crease to handle the puck. This was about as perfectly played by him as it could be.
- Abdelkader's return meant the kid line got broken up. Gustav Nyquist helped set up the first insurance goal. Tomas Tatar was determined to make an impact, and came very close to doing so on multiple occasions on the scoresheet. Riley Sheahan was effective in all zones, and had the first insurance goal to boot.
- I already said stuff about Glendening, but what about that fourth line? We already know Drew Miller's value in shot-blocking and getting in the opposition's lanes. They along with Landon Ferraro actually generated some decent chances in the first two games, and they continued their great play in this game.
This was a perfect example of firing on all cylinders for the Red Wings. It was about as wire-to-wire a finish in favor of Detroit as a playoff game can be. This win snapped a three-game home playoff losing streak, and boy does it feel nice to have a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday night at the Joe.
Strap in, ladies and germs. We got ourselves a series!