The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, their 8th straight defeat and 18th loss of some sort to Tampa Bay, was not as frustrating as usual, but it was still innervating to watch the Red Wings continue to wait for their breaks instead of creating their own momentum.
This Tyler Bertuzzi-less team seems to be missing a “straw that stirs the drink” or two, and the Red Wings’ demonstrativeness is simply absent at present. They’re very happy to nurse ties and live down a goal or two, looking for their right opportunity to come to them instead of influencing the outcome of the game themselves.
So the 2-8-and-2 Red Wings head southeast toward Miami, where the unbeaten Florida Panthers await for a matinee game on Sunday (3 PM EST start; Florida is 6-0-and-2 and won 2-1 over Nashville on Friday) and another affair on Tuesday, and the Wings only win in Sunrise at the BB&T Center slightly more often than they do in Tampa (almost never), so the road gets no easier for Detroit.
In terms of Friday’s game, the strangest part is that both teams felt that the Red Wings played very well. In Tampa Bay’s case, it was a matter of preventing the Red Wings from achieving their desired results, as they told TampaBayLightning.com’s Bryan Burns:
“I thought they played really solid tonight,” [Patrick] Maroon said. “They gave us their best effort. I thought they did a really good job in the neutral zone tonight. They clogged it up and made it difficult for us to get through. That led into a bad, bad second period.”
Detroit outshot Tampa Bay 12-9 in the second. And the number of good scoring chances for the Red Wings far exceeded what the Lightning were able to muster.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and play their best,” Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “They’re on a long road trip and they want to get some points. We didn’t have the right approach. We didn’t play well. We gave them a lot of scoring chances and made it easy on them.”
The Lightning regrouped in the second intermission. Sergachev recalled how the veterans spoke up and said the right things as well as the coaching staff. Maroon said the team settled down between periods and got back to playing Tampa Bay Lightning hockey.
“It’s a hard league to win games in,” [coach Jon] Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the standings, the other team’s trying. It’s one thing if execution isn’t quite there, but we were getting outworked. It doesn’t take skill to get outworked. And so we had to get back to that.”
Cooper was a little more blunt later in his commentary:
“I give the guys credit because as much of a stinker as the second period was, hold them to four shots, we give up one big-time chance and our goalie was there to make the save but other than that I didn’t think they threatened too much,” Cooper said. “And so you’ve got to like that about your team that when it’s time to close out a game, even when you’re not at your best, you’ve got to find a way to win some of those, and we did and against a very determined Detroit team.”
So the coaching staff and the “guys in the room” stepped up, as they told the Tampa Bay Times’ Eduardo A. Encina…
In the second period, the Lightning allowed 14 scoring chances, then limited the Red Wings to just three in the third. Forward Barclay Goodrow scored two of the Lightning’s goals, including an empty-netter with 27.3 seconds remaining.
“That’s a good sign that we can kind of settle back in and go out there and play the right way, and we get rewarded by doing that,” said forward Pat Maroon, who scored the first goal in the first period. “I think you saw that in the playoffs last year. I think we got back there in the third period, but we’ve got to find a way to play that full 60 (minutes).”
The Lightning (7-1-1) won all four games of their homestand, improving to 6-0-0 at Amalie Arena this season and matching the franchise record for best home start. And they continued their dominance of the Red Wings, moving to 18-0-1 in their past 19 games against Detroit, a point streak dating back more than five years.
Still, the Lightning showed Friday there was plenty of room for improvement.
“I thought (the Red Wings) did a really good job in the neutral zone tonight,” Maroon said. “I thought they clogged it up, and they made it difficult for us to get through, and that led into a bad, bad second period. I thought that was our worst period of the season. They just did a really good job of clogging it up and making it frustrating on us. But we made it hard on ourselves also by turning pucks over at the blue line and feeding into their game, so we’ve got to be better on that end.”
The Lightning also gave credit to their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was superb, as NHL.com’s Corey Long noted:
“That’s why it’s a tough position to play,” Cooper said. “You can sit there for a while, like [Vasilevskiy] had to do in the third period tonight, and then you have to make a big save. That’s why he’s up for the Vezina almost every year.”
Said Larkin, “We controlled what we could control and we showed up. That’s a heck of a hockey team over there. It was a one-shot game. We wanted to clean up some small things. I think our penalty kill did a great job (3-for-3). Greiss was good tonight, he stopped what he could see. We worked the way we should every night.”
Tampa Bay’s goal was denying the Wings theirs:
“Obviously we knew they were going to come out hard and play their best,” Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “They are on a long road trip and want to get some points, obviously. We didn’t come out with the right approach. We didn’t play well and gave them a lot of scoring chances. The second period showed that. I felt good about the third period. The boys dialed in and shut them down. [Vasilevskiy] made a huge save there. I hope we can keep playing like that.”
“That’s more conducive to the type of hockey we have to play to be successful,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They leaned on us a bit in the third, but up until that point, we hadn’t given them much. We’re going to be in those 2-1 games and we have to find ways to win them.”
At this point, due to Zoom constraints, the AP’s recap reads like something of a repeat, and we’ll utilize it to make our final transition from the Bolts’ perspectives to those of the Red Wings’ coach and captain…
The Red Wings showed a more concerted effort in the rematch against the defending Stanley Cup champions and were rewarded with the opening goal of the game halfway through the first period.
Namestnikov, a former Lightning first-round pick in 2011, came out from behind the net and established position in front as Filip Zadina shot from the left circle. The shot deflected of Namestnikov and past Vasilevskiy at 10:00.
”We controlled what we can control and we showed up,” Detroit captain Dylan Larkin said. ”We competed. That’s a heck of a hockey team over there. It was a one-shot game. We wanted to clean up some small things. We were right there. We worked the way we should every night.”
Tampa Bay tied it at 13:56 as Maroon intercepted a pass curling back in the offensive zone and wheeled to the high slot where he sent a wrist shot through an Alex Killorn screen and past Greiss for his first of the season.
Detroit dominated most of the second period, but it was Tampa Bay that scored the only goal of the frame as Jan Rutta touched a pass back to Goodrow coming off the bench before knuckling a one-timer that hovered just off the ice and through the legs of Greiss, who was screened by Steven Stamkos at 17:29.
”A bad, bad second period, I thought that was our worst period of the season,” Maroon said. ”They just did a really good job of clogging it up and make it a frustrating night on us, but we made it harder on ourselves also by turning pucks over at the blue line and feeding into their game. So we have to be better on that end, but I thought Detroit played really well tonight.”
Goodrow secured the win with his second of the night from center ice into the open net with 27.3 seconds left for his first career multi-goal game.
Larkin, Thomas Greiss and coach Blashill insisted that this was a step taken forward by the Wings as a team, as they told DetroitRedWings.com’s Alex DeFillipo:
“We showed up and we competed,” Larkin said. “That’s a heck of a hockey team over there and it was a one-shot game. We want to still clean up some small things, managing the puck better and line changes. I think our penalty kill did a great job. (Goaltender Thomas Greiss) was good tonight. We were right there. We worked just how we should work every night.”
Former Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov tallied the lone goal of the night for the Red Wings, while Greiss made 29 saves two days after being pulled in the first period of Wednesday’s loss.
“Nobody was happy with last game or the game before,” Greiss said. “I thought we played a really good game today, we played them really tight. Obviously a really strong team over there, and we did a good job limiting their chances and played really hard and didn’t make them look other-worldly.”
The Red Wings’ penalty kill also took a step in the right direction in the series, holding the dangerous Tampa Bay power play scoreless (0-for-7).
“You just have to stay with it and get a little bit better,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of the penalty kill. “I think we’ve done that. I thought we had better clears and I thought we were hungrier. I thought we did a lot of good stuff on the penalty kill. I think it’s building in the right direction.”
Blashill continued while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“That’s more conducive to the type of hockey we have to play to be successful,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They leaned on us a bit in the third (period), but until then, we didn’t give them much. We defended well, we were on top of them and we hounded them. We had chances (offensively) and we have to find a way to convert more of those chances in the first half of the game. But that’s the way we have to play. We’ve been in those 2-1 games and we have to find a way to win them. We can’t stray from it.”
While Greiss wasn’t happy with his winless streak continuing, he felt that the team played well…
Greiss (0-7-2) has yet to win his first game with the Wings.
“That game (Wednesday) wasn’t pretty but it’s just part of the way and you let it go and have a good practice the next day and get ready,” Greiss said. “It’s no big secret. For sure it’s different systems (compared to his last team, the New York Islanders) and different ways to play. It takes a while to adjust, but it just takes some time.
“Nobody was really happy with the last game, or the game before. We played a real good game tonight and played them tight. We did a good job limiting their chances and we played hard.”
And again, the captain was satisfied with “the process”:
“We controlled what we could control and showed up, we competed,” Larkin said. “It’s a heck of a hockey team over there and it was one-shot game. We were right there, and we worked like the way we should work every night.”
The Panthers are the only team in the NHL hotter against the rest of the league than the Bolts are against Detroit, so the Wings will need to be at their absolute best to snap their 8-game losing streak come Superbowl Sunday.
Update: Here’s a wee bit more from the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who filed a late-breaking recap:
“We showed up and competed,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said Friday in Amalie Arena in Tampa. ”I wouldn’t be surprised if they are over there thinking about how we battled against them.
“I am proud of our guys. I am proud of our guys after the way we showed up after a tough night to open the series.”
Wings coach Jeff Blashill noted “it was still not the way we wanted, but it was a much better.”
The Wings welcomed their fifth player from back from testing positive with COVID-19. Filip Zadina set up the first goal, and helped the Wings’ offense look more like the more like it projected to when the season began.
The Wings lost Zadina and four other players to COVID-19 protocol less than one week into the season. That altered their hopes of getting off to a good start, with 20% of the lineup missing.
They continue their Florida excursion with games Sunday and Tuesday vs. the Panthers, who swept the Wings at Little Caesars Arena last weekend, 3-2 (OT) and 3-2.
Highlights: NHL.com and Sportsnet posted highlight clips:
Post-game: The Lightning’s website posted clips of Pat Maroon, Artem Sergachev and coach Jon Cooper:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Dylan Larkin and coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:
The Red Wings posted a 6:54 clip of comments from Larkin, Thomas Greiss and Blashill:
Photos: The Free Press posted an 11-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 7-image gallery;
The Lightning’s website posted a 23-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 66-image gallery.