Red Wings Lose, Time to Get Sad
Hope is a 4-letter word. There are lots of other 4-letter words, some of them very appropriate in describing the Red Wings' special teams tonight, but since this is a family website, we'll hold off on uttering the ones we really want to right now (but f-bombs away in the comments if it will make you feel better).
The Tampa Bay Lightning and their power play were undaunted after the Red Wings came back from a 2-0 deficit, and they will have a chance to win the series and end the Red Wings season on Thursday after a 3-2 victory.
The pace of the first several minutes of the period were extremely frantic. The teams went up and down the ice, the Lightning getting the first 3 shots on goal while the Wings couldn't hit the net. Tampa went on the power play after Justin Abdelkader was called for holding, and Nikita Kucherov scored another goal off a cross-ice pass from Tyler Johnson and just beyond the pad of Petr Mrazek. Pavel Datsyuk had a partial breakaway a few minutes after the goal, but couldn't get a shot on goal. Tampa turned it on, dominating the first half of the period and being held in the game by a few timely blocked shots and Mrazek. The Wings started to assert themselves for the first time after the midway point of the period, and Andreas Athanasiou fed Brendan Smith on an odd-man rush, but Smith was unable to beat Ben Bishop. The Wings went to their second power play of the game when Niklas Kronwall was called for hooking. The Wings were much better on the kill, only allowing 2 shots and escaping further damage. The Wings finally got a power play of their own when Cedric Paquette was caught for slashing Athanasiou's stick. The Wings, shockingly, did very little with their PP, but they got another one a few minutes later thanks to Tyler Johnson shooting the puck over the glass. Datsyuk had a great chance but shot it right at Bishop, and the Wings went into the period down a goal but showing some signs of life.
Score: 1-0 Lightning
Shots: 14-10 Lightning
Strong Period: Andreas Athanasiou
Tough Period: Justin Abdelkader
The Wings began the second with a protracted power play, but despite a small flurry in front of Bishop, the Wings were held off the board. Tampa spent a fair amount of time in the Wings' zone, but the Wings defense did a good job of keeping the Lightning forwards away from the middle of the ice and preventing any second or third chances. The teams played some 4-on-4 after Paquette took a late run at Mike Green that Joakim Andersson took exception to, and both went off for roughing. Neither team did much with it, but Tampa continued to possess the puck, and the Wings took their third penalty of the night, this time Riley Sheahan for slashing. Tampa built their lead, again thanks to Kucherov, who took a pass from Jonathan Drouin and buried it past Mrazek. Mrazek made a huge save on Alex Killorn a minute later to keep the game within 2 goals. That seemed to wake the Wings up, as they began to spend a little time of their own in Tampa's zone, and it led to Paquette taking his 3rd penalty for tripping Larkin, and to add insult to injury, Larkin put Paquette on the ground when Paquette tried to run him after the penalty. The Wings again looked lost, failing to do anything to try to score. However, the Wings got on the board thanks to the grinders. Luke Glendening collected a rebound off the back of the net and fed it in front, where Darren Helm put the puck in behind Bishop to cut the lead in half. The Wings went back to the penalty kill when Ben Bishop was taken out by a sniper, but it was attributed to Gustav Nyquist barely making contact. The Wings killed it off, and Nyquist got his revenge with 10 seconds left in the period when he took a pass from Sheahan and scored on Bishop, tying the game and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Shots: 25-18 Lightning
Strong Period: Petr Mrazek
Tough Period: The defense
Both teams seemed to try to play it safer as the third period began, with neither team wanting to make a big mistake. The Wings actually seemed to carry the play more than Tampa, perhaps due to momentum and perhaps due to them realizing that 3 of Tampa's 4 forward lines are mediocre at best. The Wings held the puck more and got some shots, but neither team peppered the other's goalie that much. The Wings were given a power play midway through the period, Jason Garrison getting penalized for hooking. Dylan Larkin was a quarter inch away from giving the Wings the lead, but his shot hit the post and inexplicably stayed out. The Wings couldn't score, and then Jonathan Ericsson took a cross-checking penalty, and surprise surprise, Ondrej Palat scored on the power play to give the Lightning a lead they would never relinquish. The Wings had a few chances after that, but they either missed the net or overpassed, and Tampa will have a chance to end the series on Thursday as they own a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Score: 3-2 Lightning
Shots: 33-28 Lightning
Strong Period: Dylan Larkin
Tough Period: The feels
Points of Observation
It was obvious from the beginning of the game that Tampa's gameplan was to pressure the Red Wing defenders much more than they did in Game 3. Detroit has been unable to handle an aggressive forecheck all season, and Tampa did not allow the Wings to get their breakouts set up nearly as easily as in Game 3. As a result, the Lightning spent significantly more time in the Wings' zone, and it led to them dominating possession for most of the game.
Petr Mrazek was much busier tonight than in Game 3, and he was well up to the task. All 3 Tampa goals were scored on cross-ice passes when they had the man advantage, and were all scored from pretty much the same spot. Much like Jimmy Howard in Games 1 and 2, the goaltending wasn't the issue tonight.
That Dylan Larkin post will haunt my dreams this summer.
The Wings had been pretty strong on the penalty kill heading into Game 4, but it all fell apart as the Bolts went 3/5 on the power play. Worse, they moved the puck around seemingly at will, making the Wing defenders chase the play and opening up passing lanes that Tampa was able to use to get in scoring position.
Gustav Nyquist scored, so maybe now everyone can shut up about how he hasn't been good in this series (which is wrong). Tomas Tatar, you're up.
Jonathan Ericsson, that's not a good penalty to take. It's not the worst penalty I've ever seen, but late in a close game with the play in their end, he can not take that penalty. He's going to get roasted, and he'll deserve some of it, but he was not the reason the Red Wings lost this game.
No, that would be their absolute shitshow of a power play. Another 0-fer performance, this time 0/4, and outside of the Larkin post, they never really threatened. There were passes that went back to empty spots at the point, they never attempted to get inside, and they look like a 4th grader trying to do quantum physics. It's been their biggest weakness all year, and they are likely going to get eliminated because they have gone 1-for-20 with the man advantage in this series.
I can't handle the emotions that come with knowing that may have been Pavel Datsyuk's last game in Detroit. Because of the circumstances, and because he played well, he's your Player of the Game. If you see a sad man with a few tears running down his cheeks over the next couple of days, please say hi, because I will really appreciate it.
April 20, 2016
The Wings aren't out of it yet, but there are so many things that have to happen and go right for them to continue in this series. They need to score more than 2 goals in a game. They need their veterans and top players (looking at you, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk) to go out and lead this team to victory. It's not about winning the series; it's about winning the first period of Game 5. Then the second period. One thing at a time. It's not over yet, but the Wings are going to have to come up with their best effort of the season if they're going to play beyond Thursday.