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Special Teams Sink Red Wings, Bolts Win 3-2

The Lightning struck on their few chances and spoiled a solid Red Wings effort

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The boys went back to work tonight against the Lightning at Little Caesars Arena. Both teams came into this one 4-1 and looking to take sole possession of 1st place in the Atlantic Division. Tonight also marked the first time the Lightning have paid a visit to the LCA. The Wings had yet to lose at the new arena, and the Lightning came into this one riding a three-game winning streak. Which of those two trends came out on top? Well, if you’ve read the title you already know. But read on to see the details.

1st Period

This one got off to an interesting start... about 90 seconds into the game Luke Witkowski laid out Mikhail Sergachev in the Lightning zone with a solid open-ice hit.

Alex Killorn took issue with this by giving Witkowski a shove as they both went to their respective benches for a line change. The refs saw this and awarded the Wings a powerplay for their troubles. Not a bad way to start off a game.

On the ensuing powerplay, Henrik Zetterberg split the defense on a rush into the zone and nearly got one past Vasilevskiy but the Lightning goaltender was able to keep the game even. The Wings managed to get a few more quality chances, including a Sheahan rebound in front of the net that nearly found twine, but the Bolts were able to hold the Wings off for the remainder of the powerplay.

Chris Kunitz took a seat with about 11:30 left for slashing which presented a great chance for the Wings to really take control of this game. They definitely appeared like the better team through 9 minutes and had a chance to press the advantage. Unfortunately, that’s not how things went. The Wings lost the puck at the offensive blueline which allowed Tyler Johnson to break away from the pack and slide one past Jimmy Howard to put the Lightning up 1-0.

To make matters worse, Martin Frk took a holding penalty with just 15 seconds left on the powerplay, so the Lightning soon found themselves on a powerplay. They wouldn’t need the entire 1:45 to double their lead though. Nikita Kucherov continued his fast start to the season by snapping one home on Howard.

So the Wings came out, played pretty well for the first part of the period and then imploded on special teams to mess it all up. Fantastic!

As the period began to wind down, Frans Nielsen was sent off for hooking with 3:30 left to go but the Lightning weren’t able to add to their lead, although two close calls would have done just that if not for the goal post and Xavier Ouellet playing goalie.

Martin Frk took a dangerous hit into the boards to close out the first period. Namestnikov certainly could have been given a double-minor for the hit, but the Wings were only awarded a 2 minute powerplay to start the 2nd.

And that’s where things stood to close out the first. The Wings controlled the play early but some special teams mistakes ruined their opening effort.

Shots (on goal):

DET: 15 (10)

TBL: 11 (8)

2nd Period

The period-opening powerplay was short-lived, however, as Justin Abdelkader was sent off for slashing. Abdelkader game roaring out of the box and found himself on a breakaway where he whiffed on the shot (partially due to what appeared to be a Hedman stick-lift). The rebound was kicked out to Darren Helm, who buried it past a scrambling Vasilevskiy to momentarily cut the Lightning lead in half.

The initial call on the ice was a goal, but the Lightning challenged the call. On the replay, it looked like the referee had his arm up, not for the hit on the goalie, but for the hook. After review, the goal was overturned and the Wings were awarded a penalty shot that Abdelkader buried anyway to cut the lead to 2-1. Which is exactly where we were before the challenge. This was a weird few minutes.

Not a bad goal for the first-ever penalty shot at Little Caesars Arena. Where’d Abdelkader find those hands at?

The Lightning came right back down the ice and managed to hit the post but couldn’t get the puck past Howard as it sat on the goal line. Kucherov and Stamkos found themselves on a 2-on-1 a few minutes later but didn’t have enough room to make something happen. A few minutes later the Wings went back on the powerplay as Koekkoek was sent off for slashing. Tomas Tatar nearly tied the game on a rebound 30 seconds into the man advantage but wasn’t able to convert.

That close to tying this one up.

Fortunately for the Wings, this wasn’t the only chance they’d get as the second period wound down. A fast break down the ice saw Mike Green generate a shot from the slot that Vasilevskiy fought off, but Green went, got his own rebound, and snapped the shot into the open net to even this one up at 2!

Keep on pumping your trade value through the roof, Green!

Just after the goal, Dylan Larkin drew a penalty on Nikita Kucherov and the Wings had a chance to take a 3-2 lead in this one with about 3:30 left in the second frame. Apart from a couple of “good looks” the Wings didn’t really generate much on the powerplay and the game remained tied to end the second period.

Shots (on goal):

DET: 35 (22)

TBL: 27 (19)

3rd Period

As fate would have it, the usual suspects would reclaim the lead for the Lightning less than two minutes into the second period. Nikita Kucherov notched his second of the evening after a defensive zone turnover by the Wings turned into a scoring chance for the Lightning.

Both Ericsson and Nielsen would probably love to have that one back.

The next few minutes seemed to go back and forth between the two teams. Steven Stamkos got away with a questionable hit that left Gustav Nyquist shaken up with about 10 minutes left, but the Wings went to work on the penalty kill after Mantha was called for cross-checking.

The Lightning didn’t get much through to Howard on the ensuing powerplay, as they generally seemed to be fine with winning this game 3-2. Stamkos managed to ring one off the crossbar near the end of the man advantage but that was about it. Anthony Mantha also sent one off the Lightning post at the other end moments later, but the puck careened out of play.

Side note: We see you, Big Tony.

Lucky for the Wings, Alex Killorn was called for closing his hand on the puck with 5:30 left and we went back to work on the powerplay. But apart from a few looks, the Wings weren’t able to get anything going and the clock kept ticking down below 3 minutes with the score still 3-2 in favor of Tampa Bay.

The Wings weren’t able to get Howard out of the net until there was a minute left thanks to some sloppy passing from the home team and an aggressive forecheck from the Lightning. As a result, the Wings couldn’t apply any pressure in the final 3 minutes apart from a near-miss that Larkin whiffed on with roughly 30 seconds left.

The Lightning held on to win this one 3-2, handing the Wings their first loss at Little Caesars Arena. That makes eight losses in a row to Tampa Bay. Definitely a team you’ve got to figure out how to beat. On the bright side, the Wings played a fine game at 5v5. Those two special teams goals were what (obviously) made the difference in this one. Ah well, onward and upwards.

Final shots (on goal):

DET: 54 (31)

TBL: 40 (26)