It was quite a spirited performance, but the Wings fall 3-2 in Game 1 at Tampa Bay to open the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Wings entered with a bunch of question marks about their aging leaders (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg), goaltending, a rookie coach and mediocre blue line that backed into the playoffs courtesy of a Boston Bruins meltdown.
But the Wings were up to the task in a scrum-filled game tonight. Mike Green and Justin Abdelkader scored in a 1-minute, 56-second span to provide a brief Detroit lead in the second period, but Tampa Bay rallied to take the opener.
Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist to lift the Lightning, who won last year's first-round series in seven games en route to the Stanley Cup Finals. Wing killer Tyler Johnson had two assists, one coming on the game-winning goal by Alex Killorn with 11:08 left in the third.
How intense did it get tonight? Former teammates Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg exchanged words when a scrum subsided as the game ended.
Stay tuned for an interesting series.
Game 2 is Friday in Tampa Bay at 7 p.m.
Howard pulled for extra attacker
It’s a reoccurring theme. The Detroit net is empty, Jimmy Howard sits on the bench, glaring toward the other end of the ice as six desperate Red Wings try to tie a game.
The Wings trail 3-2 with 1:07 to go and took a timeout.
Howard is 1-6 in Game 1 on the road. (The lone victory came in the 2014 playoffs at Boston, a 3-0 shutout).
When play resumed, Mike Green had a glorious chance in front of Ben Bishop, but a stick-check by former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula knocked the puck out of play.
Abdelkader gets penalty
The Wings' Justin Abdelkader gets whistled for interference (it looked more like charging) on Jonathan Drouin to put Tampa Bay on the power play, but the Wings kill it.
It's 3-2 Wings with 4:42 left in the third period.
Abdelkader came out of the box and delivered another vicious hit, this time to Cedric Paquette.
Drouin could be a player to watch in this series for his skill and intensity.
Drouin, who was the third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has been a controversial player this season. In January, Drouin decided to not report to his Jan. 20 AHL game for the Syracuse Crunch and was suspended without pay by the Lightning. He did not play a game again until March 11.
But Drouin (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) came back strong, scoring nine goals in his final nine AHL games to earn the call-up to Tampa Bay, then had two goals in two NHL games to conclude the regular season.
He has been involved in several scrums tonight.
Bolts lead, go on power play
The Wings' Justin Abdelkader gets whistled for interference on Jonathan Drouin to put Tampa Bay on the power play.
Killorn gives Tampa Bay lead
Alex Killorn's goal gives the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 11:08 to go.
Tyler Johnson assisted on the play. Johnson, who had six goals in last year's series against Detroit, now has two assists tonight.
Nikita Kucherov registered an assist for his third point of the night. He had two goals earlier in the game. He is a plus-three along with Killorn, who helped create the goal with a strong check on Danny DeKeyser.
Johnson corralled a loose puck in the corner and sent it toward the crease, where it was deflected by Killorn, and past Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
Victor Hedman thought he gave Tampa Bay a lead on a blast with 13:05 left in the third period. But the play was challenged by Detroit, and overturned.
After further review, Tampa Bay was ruled offsides on the play. Jonathan Drouin was over the blue line before the puck made it to Hedman.
The score remains 2-2.
Detroit cannot convert
The Lightning's seventh-ranked penalty kill managed to thwart a Wings power play. It's 2-2 with 14:36 to go.
The Wings had a prime opportunity when Gustav Nyquist's wrist shot sailed past the shoulder of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Nyquist's chance came from point-blank range in the slot.
Nyquist has three goals in 30 career playoff games, but has been a factor tonight.
Wings go to power play
The Wings’ Andreas Athanasiou was stopped on a point-blank chance in front of the net by Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
Athanasiou, however, drew a penalty when he absorbed a cross-check from Tampa Bay's Jonathan Drouin. That's the second penalty Athanasiou has drawn tonight.
The Wings are on the power play with 17 minutes left in the third period. It’s 2-2.
The Wings unleashed an intense, spirited period.
There were two goals by Mike Green and Justin Abdelkader in a 1:56 span to take a brief lead. Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov scored his second goal of the game to tie it at the 9:29 mark.
And from there, playoff hockey unfolded.
Scrums. Punches. Penalties. Teammates coming to the defense of one another. It is 2-2 through two periods in Tampa Bay, where the Wings are seeking to avenge last year's seven-game defeat.
The Wings were 27-9-11 in one-goal games this year.
The Wings have a 26-20 shots on goal advantage.
Sheahan has solid chance
Tampa Bay’s Jason Garrison went to the penalty box for hooking the Wings' Andreas Athanasiou, who has a knack for drawing penalties.
An eventful Wings power play ensued, with a solid chance from Gustav Nyquist, but it was turned aside by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
The Wings’ power play came to an end with 18 seconds left when Justin Abdelkader was whistled for slashing.
The spirited play and intensity continues as the Lightning go on the power play.
The Wings' Riley Sheahan had a prime, shorthanded scoring chance on a two-on-one, but missed the net. Joakim Andersson passed to Sheahan, who took a wrist shot.
The Wings had two shorthanded goals all season, and Sheahan had one of them.
Alex Killorn drilled Wings rookie Dylan Larkin into the crease which causes a scrum with 8:18 left in the second period. It’s 2-2 between the Wings and Bolts.
From there, Braydon Coburn went after Larkin, which caused Danny DeKeyser to come to the defense of his teammate.
The Wings' Brad Richards grappled on the ice with Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson.
Later, the Wings’ Jonathan Ericsson tangled with Nikita Nesterov.
The penalty box is crowded. DeKeyser, Larkin and Darren Helm got two minutes each for roughing. Coburn got four minutes for roughing. Alex Killorn got two minutes for interference.
Earlier, there was a scrum between Joakim Andersson and Victor Hedman, and another between Jonathan Drouin and Alexey Marchenko.
Kucherov ties it
Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov strikes again and ties the game after a wild sequence. It's 2-2 with 10:32 left in the second period.
It's Kucherov's second goal of the game. He banked his own rebound through the legs of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
It’s been an entertaining second period in Tampa Bay. After the Wings scored twice in less than two minutes, Pavel Datsyuk's fluttering shot on a power play created another scoring chance.
Then Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop made a leg-pad save on Brad Richards as the Wings threatened and buzzed in the Lightning zone.
Howard made a sliding leg-pad save on Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn. But just a few moments later, Kucherov — who was left alone near the crease as Kyle Quincey and Darren Helm stood nearby — took a shot from the slot, and then was able to freely punch the puck through Howard’s legs.
Kucherov had five points against the Wings in four regular season games.
Braydon Coburn, who scored the game-winner in last year's Game 7 between the Wings and Bolts, started the play with a rush into the zone and got an assist.
Two goals in 1:56
Apparently an intermission makes a huge difference for the Wings, who score two goals in a 1-minute, 56-span to take a 2-1 lead in Tampa Bay.
Justin Abdelkader's artistic deflection on Kyle Quincey's shot went past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, hit the post, and dropped into the net for a 2-1 Wings lead.
Just 1:56 earlier, Wings defenseman Mike Green scored from nearly an identical spot — also on a redirection, but that time it was courtesy of the Lightning's J.T. Brown
The Wings are on the board
Wings defenseman Mike Green unleashed a slap shot from the point that deflected off the stick of Tampa Bay forward J.T. Brown, then sailed past goalie Ben Bishop for a goal. It's 1-1 with 17:49 left in the second period.
Wings center and NHL veteran Brad Richards won a faceoff to create the play.
The Wings have more shots (13-8), but barely any strong scoring chances, and it’s 1-0 Lightning after the first period.
For all the talk of the Lightning’s injured players, three made a significant impact in the opening period. Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson assisted on Nikita Kucherov’s goal, and defenseman Victor Hedman cleared a loose puck in the crease that saved a Wings goal.
Tampa Bay was 35-9-0 in the regular season when scoring first (fourth best in the NHL).
Johnson continues to hurt the Wings. He had six goals in last year's series — including the haunting Game 4 overtime winner at Detroit. He is in a club of fellow Wing killers with Adam Deadmarsh (Avalanche, Kings), Chris Drury (Avalanche) and Joe Pavelski (Sharks).
Johnson was questionable in the days leading to Game 1. He was the victim of a dirty hit by the Canadiens' Greg Pateryn in Tampa Bay's meaningless season finale at Montreal. Johnson, who was gliding behind the goal line, took a cross-check from Pateryn and landed awkwardly, with his head and neck meeting the boards on an awkward angle.
Tampa Bay appeared as if it would have 1:51 of power play time to start the second period. The Wings’ Danny DeKeyser was whistled for a high stick with nine seconds left.
But in the final seconds, Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle was whistled for charging Justin Abdelkader. It will be 4-on-4 for 1:51 to start the second period.
Hedman saves goal
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman saved a goal when a loose puck flirted with the goal line on a brief Wings power play. The puck caromed off the end boards, then glanced off the backside of goalie Ben Bishop's leg pad. It moved dangerously through the crease, and toward the goal line, as Wings forward Gustav Nyquist tried to pounce on it.
Hedman, however, beat Nyquist to the puck, and cleared it.
The Wings were on the power play for 25 seconds. It was negated when Niklas Kronwall drew a penalty.
There's 6:50 left in the first period and the Lightning lead 1-0.
The Lightning won 11 of 12 faceoffs to start the game.
Kucherov's blast gives Bolts 1-0 lead
So much for Nikita Kucherov's injury being a problem for the Lightning. The 22-year-old forward scored at the 6:23 mark of the first period to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
Wing killer Tyler Johnson cut across the top of the circle and sent a pass to Kucherov, who blasted a one-timer that sailed past goalie Jimmy Howard's glove. It was Tampa Bay's second shot and first legit scoring chance.
It’s was a chess match in the opening four minutes — with the Wings leading the shots on goal category 5-1. Their best chance was Justin Abdelkader’s soft wrist shot that was gloved by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (6-foot-7), whose six regular season shutouts were tied for second in the NHL, trailing just Chicago’s Corey Crawford (seven).
Bishop, the NHL's regular season leader in goals against average (2.06), faces a Red Wings team that lacks snipers. The Wings will need to score ugly, playoff-like goals to beat Bishop. (Think Riley Sheahan in front.)
Kucherov had 30 goals in the regular season for Tampa Bay. He had five points (three goals, two assists) in four games against the Wings in the season series.
Puck drops on 25th straight postseason
The puck drops in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s scoreless in the early stages between the Wings and Lightning.
Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has a 2-6 record in Game 1 dating back to 2010. Howard hasn’t started a playoff game since Game 3 against Boston in 2014.
Lightning forward Tyler Johnson – a Wing killer last postseason (six goals) —participated in warmups and will play.
A first-round victory will be tough to achieve against Tampa Bay goalie and Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop, who led the NHL in goals against average (2.06). He was brilliant in last year’s decisive Game 7 against Detroit, earning a shutout, and carried the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to Chicago.
But do Steve Yzerman’s Bolts have enough depth to offset injuries, especially to superstar center (and pending unrestricted free agent), Steven Stamkos? Here’s to saying, yes, they do: Tampa Bay had nine players who scored 10 goals or more.
Who will rise to the occasion for the Wings? Can Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist forget their subpar regular seasons, and light the lamp in the playoffs? How will rookie Dylan Larkin fare in his first-ever playoff series?
The Wings have lost in the first round in back-to-back years (Boston, 2014; Tampa Bay, 2015) and have not won a second-round series since 2009.
The Red Wings enter their 25th consecutive postseason playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on the heels of an indifferent 41-30-11 regular campaign.
The Wings backed into the playoffs, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a clean slate.
A rejuvenated Jimmy Howard will likely start in goal for the Wings. Howard seized the starting job from Petr Mrazek who began to struggle in mid-February. In his last 16 games, Mrazek was 6-6-1 with a 3.44 goals against and .886 save-percentage.
Meanwhile, Howard was 3-2 with a 2.37 GAA and a .916 save percentage in his last five games.
Much of the clamor around the Wings has been whether this is Pavel Datsyuk's last season. The star has hinted he may return to Russia after this season, which would leave his $7.5 million salary on the team's books in terms of the salary cap.
In the Lightning, the Wings face a bruised and battered team that’s missing forward Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured fibula). Center Tyler Johnson (upper body) appeared to ready for Game 1 after he went crashing into the boards in the season finale against the Canadiens. Johnson had six goals against the Wings in the playoffs last season.
RED WINGS VS. LIGHTNING
Faceoff: 7 p.m.
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.
TV/radio: CBC, FSD/97.1