The Detroit Red Wings were looking to take a commanding 3-1 series over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. After taking a 2-0 lead into the second intermission and going toe-to-toe with Tampa Bay for 40 minutes, the Lightning scored three goals in under eight minutes of game time to steal Game 4.
The first period was like a negotiation: Both teams got some of what they wanted, but left the table still unhappy. From the Detroit side, skating through the neutral zone was nonexistent, with Tampa Bay clogging up the lanes and surrounding the puck as the Red Wings hit the blue line. Tampa Bay had better of the zone entries, but Detroit minimized shots and scoring chances, save one egregious turnover which ended up in a Valtteri Filppula shot from prime scoring territory that Petr Mrazek absolutely robbed. Each team had a power play, but both teams went into the locker room scoreless.
Game flow followed the cadence of the first period, with both teams stifling each other. A terribad interference call on Henrik Zetterberg gave Tampa Bay another chance on the power play, but unlike the first period, the Lightning couldn't build anything off of it.
Detroit then drew first blood. Gustav Nyquist then chased the puck deep in the offensive zone and forced it up the wall to Ben Bishop's right. Justin Abdelkader won the battle, fed the puck across the zone to Henrik Zetterberg, and Nyquist parked himself in front of the crease for an easy tap-in and a 1-0 Detroit lead.
The Red Wings had a chance to take charge of this game when Cedric Paquette tripped up Pavel Datsyuk in the neutral zone, and then Bishop forgot he was playing hockey and not football for a 39-second 5-on-3 advantage. Detroit got some good looks and had some chances, but the game stayed 1-0.
Tampa Bay couldn't build momentum off that penalty kill, however, and Bishop was responsible.
GIF: Ben Bishop own goal dot DERP pic.twitter.com/m0q7tVGCLg— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 24, 2015
Despite Detroit's best efforts by taking penalties to the end the second period, the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
There was a lot that happened in the third period, but only 77 seconds of it is relevant. Mrazek did his job keeping the Lightning offense at bay, but for the previous 100 minutes of this series, he had help from the defense in front of him getting in shooting lanes and passing lanes and denying access to the front of the net.
All that good work evaporated in 77 seconds with two stupid decisions to allow Tyler Johnson to streak in on both sides of the ice. On Tampa Bay's first goal, Johnson came up the left wall and beat an indecisive Darren Helm to the front and beat Mrazek short side when the Red Wings' goaltender bit on the move to the forehand. Soon after, Johnson was streaking up the right side, and Kronwall decided to whiff at a bouncing puck instead of take the man, so Johnson had all the time and space to find Ondrej Palat screaming down the middle for a tap-in one-timer.
Seventy-seven seconds was all it took. The next time you hear the phrase "60-minute effort," it's not all a crock of cliches.
Tampa Bay ended it early. Detroit's refusal to skate the puck to the net and instead trail off led to a 2-on-1 rush the other way, and the Lightning hero of the night finished an awkward odd-man rush. Game, 3-2 to the Lightning.
- Unmentioned but important detail: Luke Glendening left the game in the third period, presumably after he shoved Johnson from behind into the boards and then got involved in a scrum. "Coincidentally," Johnson went on a tear.
Glendening has a pretty messed up right hand. Not sure of status Saturday.— Chuck Pleiness (@wingsfrontman) April 24, 2015
- This game was not on Petr Mrazek. Maybe he should have done a better job getting across on the overtime goal, but he also kept the Lightning off the board on some great chances in the first 40 minutes.
- I will never understand this team's penchant for passing up shooting opportunities. This is the team that franchise from everywhere in the late 2000s, regularly outshooting the opposition and scoring just because of volume shooting at times. Tomas Tatar had a chance to score (shoot) at the end of regulation to potentially avoid this nightmare. On the overtime goal, the previous rush into the Lightning zone yielded a trip to the top of the faceoff circle and no deeper, then a rush the other way leading to a game-losing goal against.
- Datsyuk is probably playing through an injury, but he did not look good or comfortable playing the puck. He had his usual couple of moments where he picked the puck up off the boards and made a nice play, but he had trouble catching passes and hanging on to the puck.
- Let's just get this thread up quickly and everyone can vent.
Narratives aside, the series is tied 2-2. Detroit still has a chance, but eff rationality tonight. The series is tied but the Red Wings lost a potential stranglehold of the series and now have to win in Tampa again if they want to claim this series. In the two games in Tampa, Detroit won by the skin of their teeth and then lost big despite playing an OK game.
Oh well. There's a job to be done, so it's time to go do it. Saturday.