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Inconsistency everywhere: Lightning, officiating best Red Wings 3-1

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Who wants to take a trip down memory lane?

Last time the Red Wings and Lightning faced off, things got...contentious. Fights, game misconducts, and other fun (including one suspension we shall not discuss) ensued. Tonight, Detroit faced off against their biggest rival in recent memory. Where the Red Wings came off from a huge win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa suffered an absolute 5-1 beatdown from the Pittsburgh Penguins. John Cooper, Tampa’s coach, was ejected last game by Wes McCauley...who just so happens to be working tonight’s game.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

1st period

Vlad Namestnikov is on the top line again. Is he up there because he’s a difference-maker, or is the team attempting to showcase him for a trade? Questions for another day, I suppose. Right off the bat, a quick play from Lucas Raymond nearly five-holes Brian Elliot. Detroit came out flying in the first minute, keeping the puck out of their offensive zone for almost the entire first shift. The Guelph Line had a great two-on-one chance, but one of Tampa’s defensemen used their body to put it to a stop.

Five minutes in and a “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant roars through the surprisingly quiet Amalie Arena. Namestnikov set up Dylan Larkin, who nearly put it past Elliot. Both teams brought the heat early on with plenty of scary-close end-to-end chances. Robby Fabbri’s steal through the first five minutes led to a shot just narrowly saved by Elliot. Today, I learned that Brian Elliot is still in the NHL.

Michael Rasmussen had a breakaway...and did nothing with it! Still, it was nice to see the hustle. Putting him on Joe Veleno’s wing appears to be paying off. Despite Tampa’s best efforts, the Red Wings didn’t let up, peppering on more and more shots through the first. It’s a huge relief to see that Elliot is the one starting, because Andrei Vasilevskiy is 13-0 against Detroit in his career. Carter Rowney took a tumble and made it to the bench. Not great, considering he’d just returned from injury.

Alex Nedeljkovic made a massive save on Erik Cernak. Good coverage by Nick Leddy stifled Cernak’s chances; it’s good to see Leddy pick things up before the trade deadline. Fabbri was sent to the box shortly after for holding— just a very odd call. Tampa, known for their lethal power play, was no match for Pius Suter, who used exceptional vision to eat up power play time.

Following a few scoring chances, Cernak tried to take exception with Bertuzzi, who just laughed it off like it was nothing. A power play for Detroit, like Tampa, resulted in nothing.

Through the first, there were no fights, goals, and no scrums. There were, however, a few Grade-A chances by the Red Wings.

2nd period

The absolute dismantling Pittsburgh put on Tampa became more evident as the second period went on. While they’re still one of the best teams in the NHL, tonight’s performance felt slow and sluggish. This sloppy play made for great opportunities for Detroit.

Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize on it in any real way.

Through five minutes, the Bolts peppered the net with shots. It was low event hockey for the Wings until Namestnikov got dinged for a tripping penalty on Cernak.

Sam Gagner, penalty kill king, quickly cleared the puck. Sadly, these efforts wouldn’t last for long — Victor Hedman scored a late power play goal to make it 1-0. At the halfway point, Detroit put together a whopping zero shots in the second period. Shot totals were a painful 25-8, with Tampa shooting three times as many pucks to the net as the Red Wings. Detroit didn’t get a shot in the second until the 12 minute mark. It’s hard to tell whether it was fatigue, Tampa feeling vindictive, or a little bit of both.

Mortiz Seider, however, would never let the team fall flat on its face to a goaltender like Brian Elliot. He obtained pass from Leddy, pushed past Hedman, then fired it into the net. A rebound and puck movement from Elliot left it wide open for Robby Fabbri, who tied the game 1-1!

The Seider Streak lives on, now at eight games long. Fabri’s goal appeared to ignite the Red Wings, who, led by Larkin, forced a holding call against Tampa. The power play had potential, if by “potential”, you mean “keeping Seider out on the ice for almost 2 straight minutes”. Silver lining: good puck movement, pass control, and shots on the net.

The Blashill Blender created a line of Sam Gagner, Joe Veleno, and Vlad Namestnikov. It went about how you’d expect. A whole lot of nothing happened, save for a few eye-catching Veleno plays. Nedeljkovic put together a show-stopping save against Alex Killorn. A few scrappy back-and-forth plays ended with Fabbri getting a pretty hard puckless hit without any call.

3rd period

The iron stopped Fabbri from netting his second, as his too-close shot hit the post. Veleno had an early chance that should’ve been a goal. Mikhail Sergachev, however, had other plans, knocking the net off its posts. Intentional interference? I’m not saying it, but many people are.

A rough turnover nearly led to a Stamkos goal, instead giving Tampa its 30th shot of the night. Another very loud “let’s go Red Wings” chant echoed through the otherwise snoozefest of the arena. Sadly, the chants were followed by another penalty for Detroit. Facing off against Tampa and getting penalized is a veritable game of Russian Roulette. — especially with how stacked their lines can be. Seider, who seemed to be on the ice on every shift, had other plans, playing puck thief and penalty kill wizard.

The moment Seider left the ice, Corey Perry screened the net and allowed the lanes to open for Sergachev to score. 2-1. More scary turnovers ensued from hasty plays. The run-and-gun hockey play continued with back-and-forth chances from both sides. The pressure from Detroit shot up with an almost-goal on a wide save by Elliot.

Down a forward and a goal, the Red Wings didn’t let the adversity get to them. A HUGE save on Stamkos made Nedeljkovic the clear-cut best player of the night for Detroit. Were it not for him, it would be a 4-1 game or higher. With two minutes left to the game, the Red Wings pulled Nedeljkovic, setting up Bertuzzi for a VERY close chance. At the very end of the game, Raymond earned a bizarre hooking penalty. It looked more like a stick lift to me, and, given how inconsistent the officiating was, it wasn’t a shock to see this call.

A huge skate-to-skate hit from Hedman on Bertuzzi at the end of the game was left unpenalized. The empty net at the end only made it worse.

Inconsistency and officiating sunk Detroit tonight against a top Tampa team.