Red Wings dinged by late goal, lose Helm

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tampa Bay celebrates the game winning goal by right wing Nikita Kucherov late in the third period.

Detroit — What a crushing loss for the Red Wings — and a gutsy win for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Red Wings stormed back to tie Tuesday’s game but Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov scored his second goal of the game at 18 minutes, 50 seconds of the third period giving Tampa the 4-3 victory.

It was the Red Wings’ (8-8-1, 17 points) second consecutive loss and came against a short-handed Lightning (10-6-1, 21 points) team that lost Steven Stamkos in the first period.

The puck went straight to Kucherov after Drew Miller blocked a shot, and with goaltender Petr Mrazek leaning the opposite direction, Kucherov had a lot of net to shoot at.

BOX SCORE: Lightning 4, Red Wings 3

“I just didn’t see it,” Mrazek said. “I tried to find it. Nice block and the puck went straight to Kucherov’s stick.”

It was a stinging goal against for a Red Wings team that had stormed back and appeared to be in a position to earn at least one important point.

Frans Nielsen, Ryan Sproul (power play) and Henrik Zetterberg (power play) had Red Wings goals, with Sproul adding an assist on Zetterberg’s goal.

“I saw a lot of good stuff,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the game. “Extremely frustrating to end up losing the hockey game at the end. But I saw a lot of things we did real well.”

Along with the defeat, the Red Wings also will likely be without forward Darren Helm for a significant period of time.

Helm was upended by Tampa defenseman Nikita Nesterov in the third period, with Helm falling squarely on his left shoulder.

Helm immediately clutched his arm — he could have injured his shoulder or wrist — and skated directly to the end of the bench, and raced down the hallway to the locker room.

Blashill said the team would know more Wednesday, but Helm would be out likely “a little while” with an upper body injury.

“He’ll be out for a little bit,” said Blashill, not sounding optimistic.

Kucherov had two goals and Stamkos and Nesterov (power play) supplied the Lightning offense.

Tampa came into the game without forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Anton Stralman, both out with injuries, and lost Stamkos in the first period to an apparent knee injury.

Stamkos appeared to hurt his right knee — the one he had surgery on two years ago — during a scrum along the boards.

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Stamkos instantly grabbed the back of his right knee and gingerly skated off the ice. He hobbled down the hallway and didn’t return.

Reports after the game indicated Stamkos would get an MRI for the knee.

Henrik Zetterberg tied it 3-3 with his third goal at 9:38.

With the Red Wings on a power play, Anthony Mantha delivered a backhand pass through the slot to a wide open Zetterberg.

Mantha and Ryan Sproul earned the assists on Zetterberg’s goal, and it was Sproul who breathed life into the Red Wings just two minutes earlier.

Sproul cut Tampa’s lead to 3-2 with his first career goal, a power-play goal at 7:12.

Six seconds after the penalty, Sproul skated to near the dot and blasted a shot that goalie Ben Bishop never saw, being screened by Justin Abdelkader.

“It feels good but we want to win,” Sproul said. “So it’s kind of disappointing, still.”

The Lightning came out flying and scored two quick goals, giving them a 2-0 lead, just over six minutes into the game.

Kucherov, increasingly becoming a thorn in the Red Wings’ side the past few seasons, opened the Tampa scoring.

Mrazek ventured behind his net to play the puck, but the puck totally slid by his stick and went straight to Kucherov near the side of the net, who tapped the puck into a vacant net at 3:30, his seventh goal.

“The puck hit the boards, and a bad bounce straight to Kucherov’s stick,” Mrazek said.

Just under three minutes later Stamkos put back a rebound of Victor Hedman’s shot from the point to make it 2-0.

It was the ninth goal for Stamkos, and his 20th point, which tied him for the league lead.

But Nielsen cut the Tampa lead to 2-1 at 18:41, after the Lightning had controlled the game for most of the period.

Hedman backhanded a pass to the corner but no teammate was in sight.

Luke Glendening gathered the puck and slid a pass to Nielsen cutting through the slot.

Nielsen, alone in front, backhanded a shot past goaltender Ben Bishop, ending an eight-game goal-scoring drought (Nielsen’s last goal was Oct. 27 in St. Louis).

“Our guys stuck with,” Blashill said. “We showed a lot of composure. (But) we have to get results, no question.”
Twitter: @tkulfan