Wings falter at home as Lightning force Game 7
Detroit — The way it's gotten there hasn't been conventional, but there will be a Game 7 in this series.
Tampa Bay made sure of it Monday in Game 6 with a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings.
So both teams have won two games on the road, the teams have alternated six victories, and we've reached Game 7, which will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Tampa.
Wednesday's winner will face the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, starting Friday in Montreal.
Tyler Johnson continued his one-man offensive explosion with two Lightning goals — he has six for the series, the rest of the Tampa roster has eight — and Jason Garrison, Alex Killorn and Cedric Paquette (empty net) added the other Lightning goals.
Tomas Tatar scored both Red Wings goals (the first on the power play) giving him three goals for the series.
"Two good teams playing in a good series, it's not a big surprise for us to be going seven," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "It may surprise people on the outside but we're looking forward to go and play Game 7. You don't have many opportunities to do that and we have that."
Neither team has been able to generate any momentum from one game to the next. The Red Wings had an opportunity to close out the series Monday but costly breakdowns hurt them, and they're now forced to attempt to win a third road game.
"We match up well against each other. It goes to show you the margin in the playoffs is so slim," Niklas Kronwall said. "One game you get the puck luck and the next game you don't. We have to stay with it and don't hang our heads, stay positive."
The Red Wings might face a loss of another kind heading into Game 7.
Niklas Kronwall could well face some sort of suspension after leveling an elbow to the head area of Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.
There was no penalty called but video showed Kronwall left his feet and went flying into Kucherov's head area with an elbow extended.
Kucherov returned to the lineup in the third period.
The Lightning somewhat absolved Kronwall after the game.
"To be honest I didn't see it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was on that part of the ice I didn't see. The refs didn't call a penalty so it must have been OK."
Said Kucherov: "It's an intense game and those things happen. It's just hits. It's just part of the game.
"It's a hit. He made a hit. I'm not going to cry now. It's part of the game. That's why we play here."
Tatar's second goal cut the Tampa Bay lead to 3-2 early in the third period.
With the teams skating four-on-four, off a faceoff, Tatar got the puck near the crease and whirled in front of goalie Ben Bishop, sliding the puck under Bishop's pad at 1:39.
But Killorn restored the two-goal lead for the Lightning at 14:51.
Killorn corralled a bouncing puck near the middle of the ice, sped around Marek Zidlicky, and slipped a puck past goaltender Petr Mrazek for his second goal.
"We made big mistakes," coach Mike Babcock said. "Tampa's a team that scores when you give them opportunities."
Searching for a good start in a potential series-clinching game, and with Joe Louis Arena roaring, the Red Wings saw Tampa Bay take control of this game early.
Johnson's first goal put the Lighting up 1-0.
Victor Hedman's outstanding stretch pass found Kucherov near the blue line. He then deftly led Johnson free on a break.
Johnson beat Mrazek for his fifth goal at 3:47 of the first period.
The Lightning extended the lead to 2-0 on Garrison's goal.
Garrison trailed on a nice Tampa Bay rush, with Steven Stamkos finding Garrison — who was calling for the puck near the slot — and the defenseman lifting a shot before Mrazek go could side-to-side at 11:10.
The Red Wings had an opportunity to claw their way back in the period with two consecutive power plays but couldn't convert (they were 1-for-6 in the game).
Mrazek was the star of the second period.
Early in the period, with the Lightning controlling play, Mrazek made two incredible saves.
His first was the best.
Stamkos and Brian Boyle were in front of Mrazek on a 2-on-0, Stamkos leaving the puck for Boyle, whose shot was denied on a sprawling stick save by Mrazek, the last line of defense before the puck was headed into the net.
"That was a hell of a save," Boyle said. "Obviously I wanted to score. I didn't rush it. I put it up in the air. He made a hell of a save."
With the crowd still in disbelief shortly after, and Tampa Bay on the power play, Mrazek stopped Stamkos at the side of the net.
Stamkos was wide open but couldn't get any lift on the puck, and essentially shot into the pad of the sprawling Mrazek.
But Johnson made it 3-0 with his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Kucherov again began the play, pokechecking the puck away from Brendan Smith.
Ondrej Palat got control of the puck and caught the Red Wings on a bad line change, finding Johnson alone again with speed into the zone.
Johnson's shot from the top of the circle beat Mrazek at 9:09 of the second period.
"We had a pretty good effort," Gustav Nyquist said. "Their chances came off our mistakes, our turnovers. They scored on their chances."