The Detroit Red Wings had the perfect opportunity to take complete control of their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Up 2-1 in the series and with a 2-0 lead on home ice, the Wings were under 10 minutes away from sending the Lightning back to Tampa Bay in a 3-1 hole. They were unable to close the game out, however, and ended up losing 3-2 in overtime with the series heading back to Tampa Bay for Game 5 tied at 2-2. While this loss does not end the Wings’ chances, it puts the team in a much tougher situation.
Defense Weathering the Storm
The reason the Red Wings have been so successful thus far in this series is because they have been able to limit the scoring of one of the better offenses in the NHL this season in front of rookie their rookie goaltender, Petr Mrazek. Aside from a five-goal outburst in Game 2, the Red Wings limited the Lightning to two goals or less in their other two games in the series, the last a shutout win in Game 3. More impressive than that, Bolts’ top forward Steven Stamkos had no goals through the first three games of the series, so the Wings had done a nice job of not only limiting the Lightning’s overall chances, but completely eliminating Stamkos as a factor in the series.
The Lightning were once again held in check until the third period, when Tyler Johnson managed to speed past Darren Helm for the Lightning’s first goal of the game.
You can see Helm was beat before he even was able to get a stick on Johnson and defenseman Johnathan Ericsson was too slow to react to the speedy Johnson, who simply found a hole to place the puck past Mrazek. While it seemed like a harmless play, the Johnson line exploited a flaw in the Wings’ defense: its inability to keep up with the speed of Tampa Bay’s young forwards. This allowed Johnson’s line to exploit the Red Wings two more times, once in the third and once again in overtime, and give the Lightning the victory.
Change in the Weather
A game like this could be completely demoralizing for the Red Wings. They went from stealing home ice from the Lightning in the first game of the series and possibly heading back to Florida up 3-1 to giving up two goals late in the third, losing in overtime, giving back home ice advantage to the Lightning and being tied in the series 2-2. This also put a jolt into the Lightning, who before Johnson’s goal went over a game and a half without scoring in Detroit. Now, the Lightning are taking momentum back home and the Red Wings are on their heels.
No Time to Panic
For Game 5 back in Tampa Bay, the Red Wings need to play the way they did in the first two periods of Game 4. They didn’t allow Johnson or other Lightning players to get behind their defense on the rush and forced Tampa Bay out of its comfort zone, breaking through its forecheck and making the players play in their defensive end. The Wings still have yet to let Stamkos score a goal, and if they continue to limit top scorers like him they will be in great shape each game they play.
Smart neutral zone play with a limited amount of turnovers and takeaways leading to odd man rushes is what has made the Red Wings successful in this series thus far. They strayed away from this a bit in the third period of Game 4 and had some costly turnovers that the Lightning turned into transition offense and goals. If Detroit takes better care of the puck in Game 5 and go back to their defensive efforts in Games 1 and 3, they have a good chance of winning Game 5. The series is 2-2, not 3-1 Lightning. It’s still anyone’s series, and all the Wings have to do is now win a Best of 3.
Student at Fordham University studying Communications and Media Studies with a concentration in journalism. New York Rangers and New York Yankees beat reporter and producer at WFUV, 90.7 FM. Contributor for the Detroit Red Wings on The Hockey Writers. Contributor for TRL Hockey. Writer and Sports Editor at The Ram, Fordham University’s newspaper.