Anthony Mantha breaks finger in fight, Red Wings lose

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Witkowski and Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha fight during the first period.

Tampa, Fla. — The Red Wings lost another game and lost Anthony Mantha for the final week of the regular season, which made for a doubly disappointing evening on Thursday.

In the first game since officially being eliminated from the playoffs, the Red Wings did what they’ve done too often this season.

They lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-3.

The Lightning swept the season series against the Red Wings, winning all five games. Tampa has also now defeated the Red Wings seven consecutive times in the regular season — and nine consecutive times at home.

BOX SCORE: Lightning 5, Red Wings 3

“They play a little diferent than a lot of teams,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They come back, come with a lot of speed, and we weren’t able to slow them down enough.

“You hate to keep saying it, that you do some good things out there but in the end, you’re standing with no points again and it’s getting old.”

Playing their fourth game in five days — and fifth in seven days — the Red Wings (31-34-12)  showed good energy considering the schedule, but simply made too many self-inflicted wounds.

Frans Nielsen, Danny DeKeyser and Mike Green (power play) scored for the Red Wings, while goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped 26 shots but wasn’t particularly sharp.

“Not good enough,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I didn’t think we had enough guys ready to go from the drop of the puck. We certainly had some that were competitive, but too many guys not having their ‘A’ or ‘B’ games.”

J.T. Brown, Andrej Sustr, Alex Killorn (power play), Jonathan Drouin (power play) and Yanni Gourde had Tampa goals.

With the victory, the Lightning (38-29-9) remained three points out of a playoff spot.

The Red Wings’ biggest loss might have been losing Mantha in the first period to what general manager Ken Holland said was a fractured finger.

Mantha got into a fight with Tampa defenseman Luke Witkowski (Western Michigan) at 3:47, near the Tampa net.

The fight was possibly retribution for Mantha punching Tampa’s Gregg McKegg after McKegg fell to the ice late in their fight last week.

Witkowski arguably won this fight, and Mantha suffered his injury somewhere in the process, ending Mantha’s season, Holland said, with only five games left on the schedule.

Mantha just scored two goals Monday in Carolina, giving him 17 for the season (with 19 assists) and a plus-10 plus-minus rating.

“It’s going to happen at times for sure,” forward Justin Abdelkader said of the possibility of being injured while fighting. “He’s done a great job all year standing up for himself and teammates. It’s unfortunate, those things happen. I’ve seen it many times.”

Blashill likes Mantha’s toughness, and understands there are risks with one of his prime goal-scorers fighting.

“He’s a tough kid, he sticks up for himself, and it was unfortunate his finger got tangled up there,” Blashill said. “But he’s a tough kid.

“When you show you’re going to stick up for yourself, word gets around the league and you gain a lot of respect around the league, so it’s an important part of it. Part of what he brings is his total package, his toughness, and ability to fight when needed. It’s unfortunate the injury happened.”

The Red Wings tied the score at 2 on DeKeyser’s goal at 12:46 of the second period, after beginning to take control of the game.

But as quickly as DeKeyser scored, the Lightning answered with two power-play goals that turned the game around.

With the Lightning on the power play — Dylan Larkin for roughing — Killorn slapped a shot from the dot on the rush.

Mrazek made the save and the puck lay in the crease. DeKeyser attempted to clear the puck, but didn’t get all of it and it rolled into the net, Killorn being credited for his 18th goal at 16:13.

The Lightning extended the lead to two goals on Drouin’s goal.

DeKeyser went to the box for crosschecking at 17:42 and it didn’t take long for Drouin to convert.

Drouin carried the puck into the zone, got around two Red Wings, and beat Mrazek wide for his 21st goal at 18:04.

“The momentum changed big time there,” Blashill said. “We have to be sharper than that on our penalty kill. As a team we’re going to have to be sharper on Saturday (against Toronto).” @tkulfan