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Recap: 81-1, Here We Come!: Detroit loses, 6-4

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The Wings tried real hard and are still great friends, so that’s something.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings are back! Maybe not in the way we were hoping for, but also not the nightmare scenario many envisioned. At least it was fun for the first 30 minutes, right? Anyway, let’s get down to it.

First Period

Forty seconds in and Tatar had a slick scoring chance, but it bobbled just out of his reach to really get much on the shot. Smith looked to be taking some initiative, too, jumping in early on, exactly the way Blashill wanted his defensemen to do when he first got his promotion to the big club. In the early going Detroit carried play, although Tampa was certainly gunking things up in the neutral zone as much as possible with their big bodies. Fortunately the Wings got some breathing room when Glendening managed to draw a holding penalty against Coburn. There were so many questions circling the special teams, especially the power play this past summer, as well as uncertainty the Vanek signing, but look at that, it took all of 20 seconds for Vanek to redeem all of the fears surrounding the man-advantage as he cleaned up Zetterberg’s sharp-angle shot.

Not to worry, the Wings would give a power play opportunity back to Tampa not long after on a DeKeyser interference, but Detroit looked strong, routinely tossing the puck away. Helm in particular looked like he was enjoying the move back to center. Unfortunately, with 13 seconds remaining in the DeKeyser penalty, Hometown hero Ott took a slashing penalty with an Ericsson broken stick and oh my lanta DeKeyser flew back to make the clear out of the corner. A second broken stick and us fans got to see a lot of the Mrazzle Dazzle on that penalty kill. What a treat. A beautiful, terrible, heart wrenching treat. Mrazek’s lateral movement was exceptional to beat Stamkos and Drouin.

Some great forechecking pressure by Nyquist and a beautiful backward pass and just like that, Vanek has two. (And after the icing there are ten thousand WiiM points up for grabs to whichever commenter knows what the heck Mickey said about ball bearings and banjos.) The forecheck and speed were really the defining characteristics of the Red Wings offense throughout the period, as Zetterberg and Abdelkader both got excellent opportunities as a result. Unfortunately for the Wings, Tampa started finding their legs in the second half of the period and it turned into a much more even tilt. With two minutes remaining that OMG line that no one has any predisposed biases against got pinned in their own zone by the Drouin line, which was Tampa’s best extended opportunity of the period. They redeemed themselves somewhat at the close of the period though as Glendening’s hustle created an opportunity. The Wings headed into the locker room at the close of the period with a 2-0 leads, shots 5-9 in Tampa’s favor.

The Good Stuff: Mrazek, the Nyquist-Helm-Vanek line, the forecheck, special teams

The Bad Stuff: Not generating any shots in the last 10 minutes of the period.

Second Period

No way, during the intermission did FSD do a bad take of the crew debating about someone getting or not getting 30 goals? Well, whoever it is, Ozzie is a fan, but Darren is more skeptical, because “30 is a big number.” Do you think it was Glendening? I think it was Glendening. And all thirty will be coming on the backhand. (EDIT: That wasn’t a bad take, but my hypothesis still stands.)

Right on cue, the Lightning came out swinging at the puck drop and dump deep to win battles down low, but the Red Wings showed their teeth and gave back as good as they got, to the tune of seven shots on goal early. Kucherov was fed a beauty of an opportunity, and all of the space around Mrazek and net came up big in absorbing the shot. Six minutes in Green took a hooking penalty and Drouin was left all alone at the top of the circle and fired a wrister into the net to make it 2-1 Detroit.

Apparently this pissed off Dylan Larkin as he had a takeaway, hung onto the puck, shuffled it back to Green, who fired and bounced it off Bishop. Nielsen grabbed the rebound and made it 3-1 Detroit. Drouin nearly got another point with a great cross ice feed, but Mrazek splayed for the save, denying the open net. Not long later Detroit gave Cedric Paquette a smooth entry into the zone and Mrazek gives up a goal that he probably shouldn't have. 3-2 Detroit.

The game started running North and South, like, really North and South and a scrum in front of Mrazek turns into a fight between Smith and Sustr. When the dust settled Smith and Ott ended up in the box for Detroit, while Coburn and Sustr served time on the other side. Tampa’s top line really tied down the Nielsen line in Detroit’s end, but nothing came of it and the game began to fly again. Larkin took a penalty for being, uh, being held, and the Wings managed to keep the Bolts off the board for the remainder of the period. Score is 3-2 Detroit, shots 17-21 Tampa Bay.

The Good Stuff: Responding to Tampa Bay’s Response, Larkin, Nielsen, the defense jumping into the play, Mrazek on almost every shot

The Bad Stuff: The Penalty Kill, Marchenko in the first few minutes, Mrazek on one shot Detroit in the face off circle.

Third Period

The Third Period opened with the same pace with a lot of back and forth between the guys in red and blue. Tampa got the best of it though and were rewarded with a goal via Brian Boyle and a 2 on 1 a bad Detroit pinch. 3-3 tie game. Tampa nearly took the lead, but Mrazek’s glove did its magic to keep things even. After the break the Lightning got another great scoring opportunity from a face-off win that turned into a worrying pattern throughout the night.

Detroit took yet another penalty midway through the period for too many men on the ice, Tatar serving. And immediately Tampa won a face off and Johnson scored four seconds into the power play, 4-3 Tampa. Larkin attempted to respond, but was stonewalled by Bishop. Zetterberg had a vintage Z moment to try to even it up, but he outskated the puck in front of Bishop.

The Johnson goal woke up Detroit and the ice began tilt back in Detroit’s direction. Palat blindsided Ouellet and so Ericsson dropped the gloves. Stamkos was the third man in and Ericsson was booted for cross checking. The game remained at 5 on 5, but Nesterov was called less than a minute later for Holding in a make up call since Tampa had been benefiting from the reffing standard considerably.

On an extremely important power play the first unit flailed. The second unit looked better, but the result was the same. With less than four minutes left Detroit took another Too many men Penalty, mostly because Val Filppula wouldn’t let Nyquist get off the ice. Tampa eviscerated Detroit’s PK. Tampa leads 5-3 with 3:10 left in the period.

The Wings pulled Mrazek in an attempt to find an equalizer and at neutral ice the Wings win what felt like their first face off win of the game and DeKeyser did a shot-dump and it... it was a goal? It was a DeKeyser goal! 5-4 Tampa, but good old Val Filpulla salted this one away with an empty netter. 6-4 Tampa Bay. Shots 32-36 Tampa

The Good Stuff: Zetterberg’s mind, Larkin

The Bad Stuff: Zetterberg’s legs, Marchenko, the Power Play, the Penalty Kill, the Reffing Standard

Conclusion

Well, a lot of our questions were answered, some were left unanswered, and some new questions came up. It was a fun game to watch through the first period and a half, mostly because we were winning and in control, but the plot seemed to play out a lot like the narrative against Tampa last year: the Wings can control play for long stretches, but Tampa only needs a little bit of breathing room to put the boot to our throat.

The penalty kill that looked so promising in the first period looked very, very bad in the third period, which is going to lead to a lot of roster animosity. Marchenko seemed to have a very up and down night, and the Nielsen line took more than they gave. But really, maybe I am unfairly picking on them. Everything about Detroit deteriorated as the game went on and Tampa got stronger., and Mrazek definitely suffered for it.

On the flip side, the third line looked great for most of the game. Detroit’s pinching was kind of feast and famine. Smith looked excellent, confident, and that was absolutely great to see. The second line seemed to be lukewarm for most of the game except for Larkin, who had a strong showing to make an argument he’s not a candidate for a Sophomore slump. Also, Ericsson didn’t do anything terrible.

Sucks that Detroit lost, but the cool thing is there are still 81 games this season and no matter what, hockey is back. That’s a beautiful thing, folks. Sun still comes up tomorrow.