Losing Ground: Detroit Red Wings Fall Further Behind Tampa Bay Lightning After 3-1 Loss


Last time the Detroit Red Wings played the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was the Cedric Paquette show. The rookie center missed the game Friday night in Tampa with a lower body injury, but it hardly mattered.

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Stymied early on by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and unable to cope with solid offensive play by Tampa’s defensemen, Detroit mustered only a single goal and dropped even further behind the hosts with a 3-1 loss at Amalie Arena. Steven Stamkos scored his 40th goal for the fourth time in his seven-year career while helping his team move eight points ahead of the Red Wings in the race for second place in the Atlantic division.

Tampa’s blueliners made the difference in both the goals that mattered. After a scoreless first period that was mainly a showcase for Bishop and Jimmy Howard, Anton Stralman staked the Lightning to an early lead, racing in from the point (and right by Justin Abdelkader) to easily convert a big rebound off his partner Victor Hedman‘s point shot.

Tomas Tatar tied things up before the end of the second with a power play tally, but Hedman was right in the thick of the game-winner halfway through the third. Jonathan Drouin made a nifty stickhandling play and left the puck to Hedman, who was only able to corral it due to his long reach. He then found Alex Killorn in the slot, and he was able to beat Howard with a quick wrist shot to put the hosts ahead.

Mike Babcock called timeout with 2:14 left, but even though the Red Wings had good puck possession with the extra skater, it was Stamkos who would have the last word. Trailing Niklas Kronwall after Brian Boyle‘s long flip out of his own end, the Tamps Bay captain was able to wrestle the puck away right in front of the empty Detroit net to score what must have been one of the easiest goals of his prolific career.

Bishop was named the game’s first star after saving 30 of the 31 shots against him, though the Red Wings made things easier on him as the game progressed with fewer shots on goal in each period. Howard was also sharp, making 31 saves on 33 shots.

With one game left in the season series — and coming up soon, on March 28 — the Red Wings will have to find some offensive answers to avoid a sweep by the Lightning. Tampa has outscored Detroit 12-5 in the teams’ three meetings, and not even getting Pavel Datsyuk back is likely to be enough to tip those scales.

The Wings missed a great chance to close some ground on the Lightning, and with only 12 games left, they can’t afford to let many more opportunities go by the wayside.

The game was over when … 

The Lightning killed off a penalty called less than a minute after they took the lead, and for the always embarrassing reason of having too many men on the ice. It’s hard to get too mad at a power play that already was 1-for-2 on the night, but that was a glorious chance to answer back, and the Red Wings managed barely anything with the man advantage.

The unsung Red Wings hero was …

It’s come to my attention that many Detroit fans, or at least the ones who tweet a lot, do not like Erik Cole. Without him, the Red Wings probably get shut out in this game, as it was his work keeping a puck alive right in front of Bishop — while getting crushed by a defenseman — that set up the scramble that led to Tatar’s goal.

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