Detroit — And just like that, with one victory, the Red Wings are alive and breathing strongly in this first-round Eastern Conference series.
Goals by Andreas Athanasiou and Henrik Zetterberg in the second period, and goaltending by Petr Mrazek, gave the Red Wings a 2-0 victory Sunday night over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Detroit dominated the second period, out-shooting Tampa, 11-3, then controlled the final 20 minutes also, cruising to the win.
“I knew we had it in us,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Both games in Tampa were real tight. We had it 2-2 in that third period (in Game 2), we couldn’t find a way to get that third goal. Coming back home, the crowd was great as they usually are, and we got energy from the start.”
Suddenly the stranglehold the Lightning had in the series doesn’t look so firm anymore.
Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1, with Game 4 Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m./Fox Sports Detroit/97.1).
“We did a good job from the start of the game right on through, both sides of the puck,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We were good defensively and offensively.
“Tonight we were real complete.”
Blashill went to Mrazek in Game 3, after Jimmy Howard was in net for both losses in Tampa Bay.
Mrazek hadn’t started a game since March 29 in Montreal when he was pulled in the first period — and hadn’t played since relieving Howard April 7 in Boston.
But the lack of game action didn’t seem to have any negative effect. Mrazek calmly stopped 16 shots (seven the last 40 minutes) — the two hardest shots with two minutes left to play — though he was rarely tested most of the evening.
“I felt great from the beginning,” Mrazek said. “I was hoping to have some good, easy shots (from the start) and the first period was pretty fun.”
The 16 Lightning shots was indicative of the less-than-energized effort Tampa Bay had.
“The more desperate team won the hockey game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That was it. They came home and were energized from being home, they were desperate to win a hockey game and we just came in to play a hockey game.”
The Lighting line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn — after dominating in the first two games — was held without a shot on net in Game 3.
The trio of Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Abdelkader blanketed Johnson’s line all game.
“We felt (Glendening’s line) could do a good job of trying to make Johnson’s line defend them and they did a pretty good job out there,” Blashill said. “They are big guys, they can roll around the offensive zone, and spending time in the other team’s zone is the best defense.”
Athanasiou scored shortly after the Red Wings failed to convert on their fourth consecutive power play.
Joakim Andersson made a fine play gaining control of the puck near the boards and fed Athansiou waiting near the left dot.
Athanasiou’s one-timer beat goalie Ben Bishop short side at 12:42, giving the Red Wings a much-needed boost.
“He’s got the ability to play less minutes and still have an impact,” Blashill said. “He’s attacking the game.”
Athanasiou’s goal soothed nerves after the Red Wings couldn’t get anything going on the power play, then Zetterberg’s strange goal gave the Red Wings some breathing room.
On the goal, Mike Green’s shot deflected off the glass behind Bishop’s net and caromed back into the crease.
Bishop attempted to fall on it but the puck squirted just outside of the crease, where it bounced off Zetterberg’s skate and into the net.
Referees took a look at the call and ruled Zetterberg made no distinct kicking motion, then confirmed the goal a second time when Tampa challenged for goalie interference — but to no avail.
“It’s a new game on Tuesday but we did a lot of good things,” Zetterberg said. “Just keep building. We played pretty good, we minimized our mistakes.”