'A big boost for us': Red Wings survive late surge to secure rare victory over Lightning
Detroit — Ultimately this game was a Red Wings victory, but what looked like an easy one suddenly wasn't
The Wings defeated Tampa 6-4 Thursday, ending a stretch where the Lightning had earned points in 20 consecutive games against the Wings.
Add the fact the Wings earned a point in Tuesday's overtime loss to the Lightning, and the Wings had the better of the two-game series, earning three of a possible four points against the defending Stanley Cup champions. It was the first win in regulation against the Lightning in regulation since 2015 for the Wings.
So, there's that in what's been another long, dreary Wings season.
"It's good to get three of four points against, obviously, a team that is as good as they are," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Our guys competed hard. I didn't think we played very smart tonight at all. Bernie (goaltender Jonathan Bernier) was our best player by far. They're a good hockey team, and there are areas in our game we have to clean up.
"It's a big boost for us to win and learn lessons while you're winning. It's a lot easier to learn those (lessons) when you win."
This game became a little more nerve-wracking than anyone watching would have expected.
Leading 5-2, the Wings allowed two Brayden Point goals, the second with 2:55 left in the third period, making it a one-goal game out of nowhere
But the Wings were able to hold on, with an empty-net goal by Vladislav Namestnikov with 19.6 seconds left clinching the win.
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"The guys that were on the ice, specifically Darren Helm, Darren Helm was outstanding in that stretch when they pulled the goalie, did a real good of competing," Blashill said. "We stayed with it pretty good."
Troy Stecher, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Luke Glendening and Robby Fabbri scored for the Wings, who had six goals on 23 shots against backup Tampa goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
Bernier was outstanding for the Wings with 40 saves.
"Not much to say, he (Bernier) was our best player," said Stecher, who scored his first goal of the season, after missing eight games with an upper body injury. "He gives us a chance to win every single night. He's a heck of a goalie."
The Wings broke it open with three consecutive goals after Stamkos tied the game with a power-play goal.
Mantha, mired in a season-long slump, scored his seventh goal to send the Wings ahead 3-2.
Mantha was chasing the puck down with Tampa defenseman Jan Rutta, when both fell and barrelled into McElhinney.
Video confirmed it was Rutta who actually had the most contact leveling McElhinney, with Mantha having his stick near McElhinney, but not making much contact.
The Wings took control in the opening minutes of the second period.
Glendening made it a two-goal game just 37 seconds into the period, after a Tampa turnover, flipping a shot from near the goal line that deflected off McElhinney's shoulder and off the back crossbar, Glendening's third goal.
The goal appeared to sap McElhinney's already dwindling confidence, and Fabbri took advantage at the 4:50 mark.
Fabbri carried the puck through the zone and snapped shot high over McElhinney, Fabbri's fifth goal.
The Wings played with danger the remainder of the period, taking penalties and getting Tampa's dangerous power play on the ice.
But the Wings killed four consecutive Lightning power plays - five overall after the Stamkos power play goal and Bernier was sharp, maintaining the lead.
"After that (Stamkos goal) our penalty kill was great," Blashill said. "It was the difference in the game. Bernie had to make a couple of big saves, which you have to do on the kill, but our killers did a very good job. Two areas of the game that were the difference in the game, for me, was the goaltending and penalty killing."
The Wings (8-16-4) continue on this six-game homestand with a game Sunday against Carolina (5 p.m/FSD/97.1).
Stecher felt a good, impressive two-games against the defending Stanley Cup champions can be something the Wings build upon.
"It gives us confidence," Stecher said. "They're one of the top teams in the league, showed it last year and showing it this year, and we're continuing to get better day in an day out and this reinforces the things we've been working on.
"We have to continue to move forward."