Turnovers and a desperately focused team caused the Red Wings to fall hard on the ice. Tyler Johnson led the Lightning with two goals that gave Tampa a 5-2 beating of Detroit at Joe Louis Arena Monday. The victory tied the series 3-3 with a seventh game to be played.
After a huge turnaround in Game Five where the Wings won in a shutout of Tampa Bay on the road, they had the chance of closing the series at home. Petr Mrazek made 28 saves on Saturday while the team scored four unanswered to make a big statement in front of their home crowd.
In what is considered a best of three for the Red Wings, closing out the series sooner rather than later gives them a chance to prep for the next step. The Lightning have been below normal at times where they now sit on the brink of elimination, a stronger game could prove helpful to extending their lifespan in the postseason.
The Red Wings had a strong start to the first, moving their offense into the Lightning zone to break Bishop early. Their attempts were wide of the net with the Tampa netminder clearing the puck near his area. The Lightning offense got hold of the puck on a stretch pass near the boards where Johnson turned on his speed scoring one through Mrazek notching his fifth of the series.
The Red Wings spent a large amount of time trying to set up an offensive push to tie up the game. Justin Abdelkader made a huge open ice check on Cedric Paquette that sent the fan wild. The Lightning immediately put them into silence. A 3 on 3 run into the Detroit end set up Jason Garrison with an open shot at the stick side of Mrazek to notch his first of the series and give Tampa a two goal lead on Detroit.
Before the period came to a close, Detroit got one more chance on the power play failing to make anything of their chance to get on the board. As the period came to a close, Detroit shot nine times with two unconverted power plays.
The start of the second was all Tampa as they went after Mrazek in net once again. An attempt from Brian Boyle caused the Red Wings to have their hearts drop as he took a wide-open shot on the net. In an unbelievable response, Mrazek got his stick to perfectly stop the puck from entering the net preventing a 3-0 hole for the Red Wings.
After further attempts to score on the power play, the Lightning made another move to increase their lead. It came once again from Johnson who went on a breakaway into the Detroit end scoring a wrister through the legs of Mrazek. With a three-goal margin, the Red Wings got lucky with a 5 on 3 for 18 seconds that occurred in the Tampa zone.
Though they didn’t make anything of the two-man advantage, Detroit made their mark with 7:34 left where Tomas Tatar scored a big goal killing Ben Bishop’s shutout. Detroit showed strength on scoring more goals at Bishop but their scoring chances weren’t easy to get. In the final minutes of the second, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall delivered a big hit to Nikita Kucherov with his arm that erupted the crowd and incensed the Lightning bench. “I thought it was a clean hit at the time,” Kronwall said about the hit on Kucherov. “Usually when you go the impact itself carries you up.”
Though a penalty wasn’t called, Tampa made a response at the end of the second with a scuffle in the neutral zone. The Lightning outshot them 13-6 but with the livening Detroit offense, it only meant that the third period would be the most intense 20 minutes in the series to date.
The third period had a 4 on 4 situation with Abdelkader getting into it with Paquette from the second had Detroit moving strongly on the offense. In a serious push to the Lightning net, Tatar moved the puck around Bishop finding the five hole that put his team within a goal of evening the situation. The Red Wings continued to shoot as many times as they could with time coming off the clock.
The Lightning still pushed for the victory as they took no breaks. On a play in the Red Wings end, Alex Killorn skated toward Mrazek lifting the puck over the Czech’s shoulder to give Tampa a comfortable two-goal lead. With 3:26 left the teams went to 4 on 4 hockey where Mrazek made his move to the bench adding another attacker on the ice for Detroit.
Despite all their efforts and all their shots, the Red Wings couldn’t get the job done as the Lightning caught possession with Paquette scoring the empty netter making it a 5-2 forcing a game seven. Bishop has his best game in days as he earned the win making 22 saves on 24 shots. His .917 save percentage helped his team take the series home.
“They got the first one,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said to reporters. “They got momentum on their side. I think we worked ourselves in the game, a lot of special teams early for both sides but they scored on the chances and took advantage of it and we weren’t good enough.”
Mrazek had a strong finish despite the allowance of four goals where he will be remembered for the big stops of Boyle and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. It is more than likely that he will be in net for the last game between both teams. Game Seven will be played Wednesday back at Amalie Arena.
“We made bad decision on the changes but that’s how hockey is,” Mrazek said to Fox Sports Detroit reporter Trevor Thompson. “It’s a big disappointment for us, but its over, its 3-3 and lets get to Game Seven. I will prepare the same I would play the first game or game seven so nothing change.”