Lightning burn Wings with depth in Game 1 victory
Tampa, Fla. — There’s more to this Tampa Bay Lightning team than Steven Stamkos.
The prolific goal-scorer is going to miss this series because of a blood clot in his arm, but his team has many more outstanding parts as it showed Wednesday in a 3-2, Game 1 victory.
And, just like last season, it’s the The Triplets that ignite the Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov had two goals, Alex Killorn (who actually replaced Ondrej Palat on the line) broke a third-period tie, and Tyler Johnson had two assists as the Lightning took a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven series.
Game 2 is Friday in Tampa before the series goes back to Joe Louis Arena for Games 3 and 4 Sunday and Tuesday.
Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 31 shots as the Lightning took the early series lead.
“It was a good game, kind of what we expected, not a lot of room,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was tight, battling.
“It’s (only) Game 1. We just have to practice things tomorrow and get back at it.”
Mike Green and Justin Abdelkader had Red Wings goals, but the Wings were 0-for-5 on the power play, failing to generate much momentum.
Killorn’s goal came just less than three minutes after the Lightning had a goal called back.
Johnson centered a pass from the side to a cutting Killorn, who redirected the puck past goalie Jimmy Howard at 8 minutes, 52 seconds.
“They have a lot of talent,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Johnson’s line. “Johnson, Kucherov, Killorn are all real good players and they were able to produce tonight. We have to do a better job of stopping them and have to find a way to score one extra goal and keep one extra goal out.”
The Red Wings had a pair of great opportunities with under a minute left, but on the best attempt, Mike Green shot wide coming in from the point.
Tampa had an apparent goal called back early in the third period when Victor Hedman’s goal was wiped out because of an offside call.
The Lightning had a 4-on-2 rush and Hedman’s one-timer from the high slot beat Howard at 6:55, but Jonathan Drouin was offside carrying the puck into the zone.
But the Lightning fought off the disappointment and kept charging.
“Our response after the disallowed goal was outstanding,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Each time Tampa scored, Blashill said, the Lightning took charge.
“When they scored they gained momentum, and with that momentum they took it to us for a little bit,” Blashill said.
One thing the Red Wings did well was establish net-front presence in front of 6-foot-7 Bishop.
Both goals were a result of the Red Wings either going to the net or creating havoc in front of Bishop, something they’ll consistently need to do in this series.
“We want to get traffic in front of him,” said Abdelkader, who gave the Wings a 2-1 lead on a redirected shot. “He’s a big goalie and pucks he doesn’t see hit him. I still think we can do a good job of taking away his eyes.
“We had a lot of good looks. If we just keep doing the right things, pucks will start to go in.”
Last season it was Johnson who caused the Red Wings problems with his goal-scoring, but Wednesday it was Kucherov who was a thorn.
A 30-goal scorer during the regular season Kucherov showed that production was absolutely no fluke with two nice goals — a one-timer from the dot, and a jab of a loose puck rebound battling in front of Howard.
“He’s finding a way to rise to the occasion in big moments,” Cooper said of Kucherov. “That’s what makes great players great.”