There was only one game in the NHL on Sunday (there are 14 on Monday so this is a short reprieve) as the Tampa Bay Lightning travelled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings.
Last season the Lightning were the best team in the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup, while Detroit was the worst team with a 17-49-5 record, good for 39 points, 23 points behind the second-worst team in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators.
This season the Red Wings have been a more competitive team with a 18-26-9 mark heading into action Sunday, six more points than last season in 18 less games. Their goal differential has dropped like a stone as well as they were a minus-122 in 2019-20 and just minus-45 this season.
The Lightning are in a battle for first place in the Central as they trail Carolina by four points while they are two points in arrears of Florida, albeit with a couple of games in hand.
TAMPA BAY 2 DETROIT 1
The Lightning moved into a tie with the Panthers for second place in the Central, with a game in hand as they outplayed, but barely outscored the Red Wings, winning 2-1.
The Lightning struck early as Filip Hronek coughed up the puck with a poor pass behind the net which was intercepted by Barclay Goodrow who threw a pass to Blake Coleman in the slot. Coleman’s shot easily eluded Jonathan Bernier in the Detroit cage at the 16 second mark of the first period.
That was the only scoring in the first period as Tampa Bay outshot and dominated the Red Wings to the tune of 19-6.
The Red Wings gave up an early goal in the second period as well as Mikhail Sergachev’s point shot eluded Bernier to make it 2-0 just 1:09 in. Blake Coleman picked up his second point of the game and Yanni Gourde also picked up an assist.
Filip Zadina cut the lead in half at 13:37 when he and Vladislav Namestnikov perfected a give-and-go with Zadina beating Christopher Gibson in the Tampa Bay net with a one-time wrister from the faceoff circle.
The Lightning outshot Detroit 17-6 in the second and had a 36-15 shots advantage after two periods.
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There was no scoring in the third period despite the Red Wings having a two-man advantage for 2:10 late in the third.
Detroit outshot Tampa Bay 8-6 in the third but were outshot 42-23 in the contest.
Gibson got the start in the Tampa Bay net after Curtis McElhinney got the start on Saturday as the Lightning gave number one goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy the weekend off. This will bode well come playoff time. Gibson stopped 22 shots to pick up his first win in over three seasons in the NHL as the last time he was in the win column was on March 20, 2018 when he was with the New York Islanders.
Bernier was sensational, stopping 40 shots and keeping the Red Wings in the game. He has been an underrated goaltender the last two seasons on a poor Detroit squad as he is 9-11-1 this season with a 2.99 GAA and a .914 save percentage while going 15-22-3 with a 2.95 GAA and a .907 save percentage last season. As mentioned earlier, Detroit is now 35-76-14 in the last two seasons after their loss today. Bernier’s 24-33-4 mark compared to 11-43-10 when he has not been in net, gives credit to his play.
Coleman had seven shots on goal to lead both teams.
Goodrow, Coleman and Yanni Gourde were all plus-two.
Tampa Bay was 0-2 on the power play with Detroit going 0-4. The Red Wings have not scored in their last 21 power play attempts.
With the win, the Lightning have climbed into a tie with Florida for second place, two points behind Carolina with the Hurricanes holding a game in hand over Tampa Bay and two games in hand on the Panthers. If Tampa Bay and Florida meet in the first round, it will be the first time the two state rivals have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs.