The Detroit Red Wings had an opportunity to close out Round 1 with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. After failing to hold a 2-0 lead late in the third period of Game 4, the series shifted to Florida on Saturday with the Bolts stealing back home-ice advantage. However, the Wings shutout the home team 4-0 coming into the potential clinching Game 6.
Three of the previous five games were won by the road team and this would prove no different. Tampa got off to a lightning-like start with leading scorer Tyler Johnson scoring just fewer than four minutes into the contest. Near the midway mark of the period, defenseman Jason Garrison would wrist one past Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek to take a 2-0 lead.
“I think it was pretty equal chance-wise in the first period,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, “but they took advantage of them. Then after that it’s back-and-forth all game.”
Shortly after the second period began, Tampa’s Brian Boyle would have a goal stolen via the stick of Mrazek, who was able to extend his reach to deny a sure goal in what will be one of the best saves of the entire season.
“Personally I just kind of laughed,” said Tyler Johnson. “He’s been making some of those saves all series. He’s a great goaltender, he’s going to make some of those desperation saves.”
“I see a few of those from him,” said Tomas Tatar. “He does it in practice. You think the puck will go in and all of a sudden he puts the stick out, so he’s a great goalie. Obviously, those saves kept us in the game.”
Near the halfway mark of the second period, Johnson would score again with his sixth goal of the series (at this point, his teammates had only scored a collective seven goals throughout the series).
However, Detroit would begin to take control in the second half. Tomas Tatar would score his second goal of the post-season at 12:26 of the second, with defenseman Niklas Kronwall assisting on the power play marker.
Before the period ended, Kronwall would line Tampa forward Nikita Kucherov up along the boards adjacent to the offensive blueline. The “Kronwallian” hit would receive no penalty. He would receive a phone hearing from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety following the game. The hearing would result in a crucial Game 7 suspension.
“You know, I haven’t seen it in replay so I can’t really say too much about it,” said Kronwall after the game. “I thought it was a clean hit at the time.”
“He made a hit. I’m not going to cry now,” said Kucherov. “It’s a part of the game. That’s why we play here.”
Barely a minute into the third stanza, Tatar would add another goal as he spun around, depositing the puck past Ben Bishop to cut the lead to one.
It would be an eventful period in the penalty box, with Detroit earning 10 penalty minutes and Tampa Bay receiving 12.
The Wings continued to orchestrate the tempo, earning numerous scoring chances. That is, until Alex Killorn would restore the two-goal gap, which would seal the victory for the Lightning, forcing Game 7, which will take place on Wednesday (7:30 ET, NBCSN).
The disappointing loss did not seem to deter the Wings’ confidence.
Niklas Kronwall spoke highly of the skill level that Mrazek showed all game long.
“They get one or two there, the game is almost put away,” said Kronwall. “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance. In the end we came up short.”
Gustav Nyquist was generally happy with the way his team played.
“I think we had a pretty good effort to be honest with you. Their chances came off our mistakes, our turnovers, not tracking, they scored on their chances.”
Tatar says the team is ready and waiting for Game 7.
“We have a great team and great leadership, and obviously to play home in the Joe in front of our fans is amazing, but we are not afraid to play in their building either, so we are looking forward and we’re ready.”
The last Game 7 that the Red Wings played was against the Anaheim Ducks in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Just like this series, neither team won two games consecutively.
Detroit won that game on goals from Zetterberg, Abdelkader (shorthanded) and Valtteri Filppula (now a member of the Lightning; game-winning goal).
If the trend continues, then Detroit should win the series. If Tampa wants to win, they’ll have to break that pattern of alternating wins.