Tampa, Fla. — The Red Wings had been finding ways to win during a six-game win streak, even when they weren't playing their best.
Thursday, the Red Wings couldn't overcome the things that went wrong and the result was a predictable 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
The victory vaulted the Lightning (31-15-4, 66 points) past the Red Wings (28-12-9, 65 points) into first place in the Atlantic Division.
But with the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders skating into Joe Louis Arena Saturday, the Red Wings know they have to play better hockey.
"When you're winning a lot of games, sometimes you start to cheat a little bit," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "That's when you go away from your structure. We have to learn from this and get back to playing the way we should and we'll be fine."
The Lightning scored with 37 seconds left in the first period, then exploded for three second-period goals, breaking the game open.
Petr Mrazek stopped only 10 of 15 shots through two periods and was replaced by Tom McCollum to begin the third (McCollum stopped all 17 shots he faced).
Mrazek won five of the six games in the winning streak while replacing the injured Jimmy Howard, but he's allowed 16 goals over his last four games.
"You have to give him credit, he's a kid who has gone 10-4-1," coach Mike Babcock said. "He has moxie, he has NHL moxie. His skill level, he still has to work on his skill level, he's a kid.
"Howie spent five years in the minors. That's just the process for a goaltender. But his moxie is so good, we just have to get his skill level to (match) and continue to battle and work on the details of his game and then it'll show more consistently."
Darren Helm scored the lone Red Wings goal.
By allowing five goals, the Red Wings have allowed at least four goals in four consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 17-23, 2011.
Cedric Paquette had three Tampa Bay goals (nine for the season), including a short-handed goal that gave the Lightning a 4-1 lead and essentially clinched the outcome. Steven Stamkos (power play) and Mark Barberio had the other Lightning goals.
"There's a lot of things that need to be better and improved," Niklas Kronwall said.
Paquette opened the game's scoring at 2:03 of the first period, backhanding a rebound near the crease past Mrazek.
But Helm answered with a nice goal at 11:59.
Helm won a battle for the puck behind the Lightning net, skated toward the dot, and beat goalie Ben Bishop high for his ninth goal.
The Red Wings appeared to be in good shape heading to the close of the first period, but Paquette scored his second goal giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin got control of the puck along the boards, fed Paquette near the dot, and Paquette whistled a shot past Mrazek with 37 seconds left in the period.
"Even when we came in after the first period we felt good about ourselves. We just needed to go out and play good," Zetterberg said. "We didn't do that."
Stamkos made it 3-1 with his 27th goal, a one-timer from near the top of the circle on the power play at 4:18.
The Red Wings earned a power play shortly after, but Paquette crushed whatever hopes the Red Wings had of rallying.
"It didn't help," said Kronwall of allowing the short-handed goal. "But you have to find a way to stick with it and keep doing the right thing. Unfortunately we didn't do that for long enough."