Red Wings lose special-teams battle, fall to 'high-octane' Lightning in overtime
Detroit — There were no brawls Saturday on the 25th anniversary of the greatest hockey brawl, but Red Wings fans still got some entertainment.
Just not a victory.
Brayden Point's goal at 2 minutes 32 seconds of overtime gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings.
Point scored his 24th goal, putting back a rebound of Steven Stamkos' shot past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
"They won the specialty-teams battle," Nedeljkovic said. "Five-on-five we were good. For the most part, the first two periods, we were the better team. We stuck with it, we scored (in the third period), we just have to find a way to shut it down there."
Newly acquired Oskar Sundqvist scored in the third period, giving the Wings a short-lived 1-0 lead.
But Tampa Bay tied it 1-1 on Stamkos' power-play goal at 15:22 in the third period, moments after Nedeljkovic (34 saves) made a sprawling save on Point in the crease.
"Parts of the game we did good stuff," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We defended well against a pretty high-octane team. We could have created more net presence. It was a specialty-teams battle and we lose the game.
"When you have five (power plays) and you don't score and they're 2-for-3, in the end, it's not good enough."
Sundqvist scored his sixth goal and second since arriving Tuesday from St. Louis in the trade for Nick Leddy, at 8:41 of the third period. Pius Suter carried the puck into the zone and found the trailing Sundqvist, whose shot trickled through goalie Brian Elliott (26 saves).
The goal sparked a crowd ready to get loud after seeing videos and highlights from the March 26, 1997, brawl between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche.
The Red Wings fell to 26-31-8 — they've only won three times in their last 12 games (3-7-2), while the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning reached the 40-win mark (40-18-6).
The overall effort was satisfactory, but the not getting two points and the victory stung the Wings.
"We lost 2-1 in overtime and it doesn't matter if it's those guys (Tampa) or a last-place team in the league; it doesn't matter who we play right now," Nedeljkovic said. "We want to win. We're 20 points out of a playoff spot. It shouldn't matter (who the opponent is). There are no moral victories at this point, no measuring stick.
"We're not in a playoff spot and we need to be in a playoff spot, and losing isn't going to get us there."
The Wings have been plagued by poor sports often lately, but that wasn't the case against Tampa Bay. They carried the play for stretches, and kept Tampa Bay's powerful offense stymied.
"That's how we have to play every night," Nedeljkovic said. "We were the better team through two periods and found a way to get a goal. We just have to close it out. If we want to be a successful team going forward, a winning team, we have to find a way to win those kind of games."
"It's great to come out of the first period even, I guess, but ... that's something we should expect of ourselves."
Elliott, getting the start in favor of annual Vezina Trophy candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy, made two big stops on Lucas Raymond in the first period, the second a point-blank shot from the low slot on a Wings' power play.
In the third, again on a Wings power play, Elliott found Taro Hirose's redirect attempt from the slot.
But the Wings neutralized Tampa Bay, allowing very few quality scoring chances — and Nedeljkovic was sharp when called upon.
"Ned played good, both goalies made good saves at big moments," Blashill said. "Both teams defended well, giving your goalies a better chance."