Storm Warning: Lightning Rain On Red Wings Winning Streak With 5-1 Defeat


Such is life in the NHL that even when everything is rolling along just fine, the wheels can come off any winning streak in dramatic fashion.

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The Detroit Red Wings went into Thursday’s visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning on a six-game winning streak. The hosts had won eight straight at the Amalie Arena. Something had to give, and it was the Red Wings’ streak, decisively ended by a 5-1 defeat.

While it’s definitely cliché to say it was a total team breakdown, it’s hard to say otherwise. The offense mustered just a single goal. The special teams struggled, surrendering both power play and shorthanded goals. Starting goalie Petr Mrazek, who has played so well with Jimmy Howard injured, saw his night end after 40 minutes, pulled in favor of Thomas McCollum after giving up five goals on 15 shots.

As they so often do, it was a goal just before the end of a period that started the Red Wings’ downward spiral. Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette dug a puck out from a crowd along the boards, skated toward the circle and fired a laser by Mrazek to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first period.

Steven Stamkos did what he so often does, snapping off a one-timer on the power play to pad that lead 4:18 into the second.  And Paquette wasn’t done, having also scored the first goal of the game, as he flipped the puck out of his own end, kept it on a 2-on-1 with Brian Boyle and beat Mrazek shorthanded to finish off his first career hat trick. When defenseman Mark Barberio scored his first of the season right off a faceoff a few minutes later, the game was already past the point where it was a lost cause.

The last time McCollum entered a game in relief of Mrazek, the Red Wings staged a furious comeback against the Buffalo Sabres. But the Lightning are a lot better squad than the Sabres, and there was no mad rally in store. McCollum did make some excellent saves after almost doing a face plant while leading the team onto the ice to start the third, turning away all 17 shots sent his way.

Darren Helm scored the lone Detroit tally, his ninth goal of the season. Tampa’s Ben Bishop was named the game’s second star after stopping 27 of 28 shots, while Jonathan Drouin also contributed to his team’s win with two assists.

The loss knocked the Red Wings out of first place in the Atlantic, with the Lightning taking over on top and the Canadiens technically in second. Detroit will get one day off to shake a poor performance out of its system before hosting the East’s other division leader, the New York Islanders, Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

The game was over when …

Paquette’s second goal made it a 2-1 lead for the Lightning instead of a 1-1 tie going into the first intermission. Tampa gave Helm way too much room to operate on his goal, and the Wings returned the favor on the game-winner, first getting out-manned for the puck and then letting Paquette just stroll away with it. He still needed to make an excellent shot to beat Mrazek high, but he never should have been able to get it off so cleanly.

The unsung Red Wings hero was …

Ah, no. There’s no such thing as an unsung hero in a 5-1 loss. Well, maybe McCollum, as the Lightning didn’t let up at all, peppering him with all kinds of rubber. He earned his keep as the backup, for sure.

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