Wings lose to Lightning for 10th straight time
Dylan Larkin (71) is grabbed by two Lightning players during Sunday night’s game. Said Larkin: “They don't like us. We don't like them. It's pretty clear.” (Hockey Weekly photos by John Castine)
The Red Wings’ winning streak came to an end at four games Sunday night at the hands of the NHL’s current best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2. But Detroit didn’t go down without a fight at Little Caesars Arena before a sellout crowd of 19,515.
With No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard sidelined with an injury, backup netminder Petr Mrazek and the Wings fell behind, 2-0, in the first 14:11 on goals by Tampa’s Dan Girardi (8:56) and Tyler Johnson.
The Wings were being outshot by a 9-4 count when Johnson scored. Then, at 16:35, “Sunday night at the fights” broke out.
Detroit’s Dylan Larkin and Tampa’s Brayden Point were the combatants in a slugfest that energized the Wings’ fans and the team. Both Larkin and Point received minor and fighting major penalties for seven minutes apiece.
Less than two minutes later, Tomas Tatar and the Lightning’s Yanni Gourde took off the gloves. Again the Wings fed off the fighting majors, not scoring but ending the period ahead in shots on goal by a 12-9 count.
Larkin said it was frustrating to lose to a team the Wings consider to be one of their most intense rivals.
"We play them a ton," he said. "They don't like us. We don't like them. It's pretty clear. There wasn't much energy in the building.
“I wasn't planning on fighting, Tats (Tatar) isn't the most likely to fight, but it was good to get the guys going. It seemed we responded after that."
The second period saw the Wings dominate play as they kept firing shots at Tampa goalie Louis Domingue until Gustav Nyquist finally beat him with a sharp angle shot from the left side of the net at 3:10 to tighten the game at 2-1. It was Nyquist’s 14th goal, tying him with Anthony Mantha for the team lead. Assists were credited to Tyler Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg.
Even without Howard in the nets, the Wings squandered four power play opportunities, which head coach Jeff Blashill said in his post-game press conference was a difference maker.
"You get four power plays and they get none, you've got to find a way to score for sure," he said. "It would have made a difference in the game ...
“We have to finish the plays. We had some real good looks and we've got to score."
Domingue, making his debut for the Lightning (30-9-30, had to be sharp to keep the Wings at bay. He ended the period with 13 saves on Detroit’s 14 shots on goal while the Lightning only mustered three shots until the 19 minute mark. That’s when Gourde scored his 13th of the season on a play that was reviewed for possible goalie interference, but video replay did not prove it.
It was the Lightning’s first win in three games.
In the third period it was Justin Abdelkader’s turn to close the gap. He fired a low wrist shot to the left side of the net for a goal, his seventh of the season, after taking a feed from Anthony Mantha at 3:06.
Abdelkader said after the game it was frustrating to pull within a goal twice and not get the job done.
"After Lars (Larkin) got in that fight, it got us going, got our energy going," Abdelkader said. "But again, falling short here again against these guys, it's frustrating. We know we match up well against them. It's tough coming on the losing end again."
The Wings’ last win over Tampa was April 17, 2016, in a playoff game. Mrazek shut out the Lightning in that game, 2-0.
But Tampa Bay now has defeated the Wings 10 consecutive games with Sunday's win.
Howard had played the last seven games and not given up more than two goals in any one of them over that stretch.
After Friday night’s 4-2 win over Florida, though, it was revealed that he suffered a lower body injury and would miss Sunday’s game.
Mrazek had only played 11 games this season coming into Sunday night, with a 3.64 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage.
It was his first game since Dec. 19 when he got the win against the New York Islanders.
The Lighting put the game on ice, though, when Steven Stamkos won a draw in the right circle and Nikita Kucherov one-timed a blistering shot past the surprised goalie at 13:42. Tampa’s Gourde then scored his second goal of the game at 16:05.
The loss dropped the Wings’ record to .500 at 17-17-7 and 41 points, still in fourth place of the Atlantic Division but 22 points behind the division-leading Lightning.
The Wings won’t play again until Saturday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m. in Pittsburgh. After that they travel to Chicago for a 7 p.m. game Jan. 14. They return home for a Jan. 16 game at the LCA at 7:30 p.m. against Dallas.