Krupa: Wings were so close and yet so far
Detroit —The Red Wings were 5 minutes, 26 seconds from going up 3-1 on the Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but the wheels came off.
A short-side goal against Petr Mrazek came first.
Then, for what seemed like the first time in six periods at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings let the Tampa go lightning-quick through the neutral zone, down in on Mrazek, and the speed caught them before they could get their coverage straightened out.
And, in overtime? Sudden death, when they allowed a three-on-one break from the Lightning blue line, straight in on their young goalie.
Series tied, 2-2.
Back to Florida.
At least it is warmer, there.
Mr. Johnson's Revenge
At 12:32 of the third period, with the Wings up 2-0 and clearly the more effective club for long stretches of the game, an altercation occurred in the neutral zone, near the penalty boxes.
Luke Glendening, who would leave the game injured, check the Lightning's Tyler Johnson heavily into the boards.
It was arguably boarding, but no penalty was called.
Pushing and shoving ensued and, in the scrum, as he held on to Johnson to keep him from the ruckus, Drew Miller turned Johnson over his hip and slammed him to the ice.
The 24-year-old from Spokane had had enough.
Two minutes and two seconds later, he flew up the left wing, by Darren Helm, and let a wrist shot go that beat Mrazek on the short side.
A minute and 17 seconds later, he deftly fed a pass to his linemate Ondrej Palat, who fired it in.
And, 2:25 into overtime, Johnson was one of three Lightning forwards skating in on Kyle Quincey and Mrazek. The puck came to him.
He scored, again.
Revenge is sweet, if you are reaping it.
Mrazek solid, but not enough
Minding the net is an awfully tough job, and Mrazek's night only proved it.
Spectacular saves are the pyrotechnics of the trade for goalies. Coaches prefer solid.
"Just stop the puck," Mike Babcock has said, repeatedly, this season.
Mrazek did that for 54:34.
As his scoreless streak neared nearly 120 minutes, however, he made a mistake.
As Johnson came in, Mrazek went down to his knees early and Johnson made no mistake.
The Red Wings needed one more stop, and he was just one save short.
An NHL goalie, especially in the playoffs, can be nearly perfect, and it still is not enough.
Lightning strong response
Despite the Wings building up a 2-0 lead, the Lightning authored a strong response, especially in the first period, after the Red Wings nearly ran them out of the building in the 3-0 win in Game 3.
Establishing their speed and hitting the Wings, instead of taking their hits, they were a far more effective team
At one point in Game 3, the Wings recorded 16 hits to the Lighting's six.
In the first period of Game 4, the Lightning outhit them 16-9.
A leg up may have been coach Jon Cooper's decision to skate with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, instead of the usual 12-six deployment. It made it somewhat more difficult for Mike Babcock to match personnel.
Gustav Nyquist got his first goal of this playoffs, after not scoring in five games against the Bruins last year and in several playoff games before.
But 5:42 into the second, he took yet another superlative pass from Henrik Zetterberg and buried it.
It will be a big boost if Nyquist can become a regular contributor to help support Datsyuk and provide the Wings with more firepower.
Luke Glendening is becoming a key playoff performer for the Wings
If they awarded third assists on goal, he would have had one on the Nyquist tally. He got the puck from a Lightning attacker in the Wings zone and flipped a pop-up pass up ice to start the lightning quick transition that eventually produced Nyquist's goal.
And when Glendening's line, with Drew Miller and Landon Ferraro, were guarding "The Triplets," the Lightning's line of youngsters led by Johnson, they were held off the score sheet.
When Glendening disappeared into the Wings dressing room, with what Babcock said was a cut hand, Datsyuk's line guarded The Triplets.
And they scored twice to tie it, and once again, to win it.