Detroit hit harder, skated faster and simply appeared to want to win more than Tampa Bay did.
Andreas Athanasiou and Henrik Zetterberg scored, Petr Mrazek needed to make just 16 saves and the Red Wings beat the Lightning 2-0 on Sunday night, cutting their deficit to 2-1 in the first-round series.
“The more desperate team won the hockey game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper lamented.
Game 4 is Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. Game 5, which is now necessary, will be at Tampa Bay.
After brawling late in the last game, gloves were dropped, fists flew and there were piles of players on the ice when Game 3 ended.
Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle grabbed each other. Abdelkader didn’t throw a punch – following instructions from his coach – and Boyle skated away and flapped his arms to indicate his opponent was too chicken to fight.
“If he needs to do that, good for him,” Abdelkader said.
Ben Bishop made 28 saves for the Lightning, whose top line got shut down.
Red Wings rookie coach Jeff Blashill said the key to slowing down the trio was playing puck-possession hockey.
“You can’t just go out there and defend,” he said.
Blashill benched goaltender Jimmy Howard for Game 3 and put Mrazek in net. The Red Wings’ swarming defence and backchecking forwards limited Tampa Bay’s shots on net.
“I know they switched goaltenders, but I don’t know if they even needed a goaltender tonight,” Copper said.
At the other end, the Red Wings kept Bishop much busier.
Athanasiou, a rookie, scored his first career playoff goal midway through the second period on a one-timer from the left circle that fluttered between Bishop’s stick on the short side.
“The old knuckle puck,” he said. “You never know where it’s going to go.”
Zetterberg, in his 13th post-season, crashed the net late in the second period and was credited with a goal that appeared to go off his left skate. The goal stood after a video review and Cooper’s challenge.
Blashill made another decision that paid off by putting Brendan Smith, who had been a healthy scratch since March 26, in the lineup instead of Kyle Quincey. Smith used his right shoulder to put Cedric Paquette on his back early in the game.
“It was a nice hit there, first shift, I think,” Zetterberg said. “Got the crowd going, got us going. He’s been out for a bit and it was nice to see him back.”
Smith, an agitating player, also drew another penalty late in the game.
“He had an immediate impact,” Blashill acknowledged.
Tampa Bay went on the power play for the first time late in the second period. The Lightning got a second opportunity to have an extra skater early in the third and had another power play late in the game. Each time, the Lightning failed to take advantage of the chances to pull within a goal.
The Lightning pulled Bishop to add an extra skater with 2:28 left, but had to put him back in 11 seconds later because Braydon Coburn was called for interference for hitting Smith, who didn’t have a stick as he tried to push him away from the net.
Mrazek didn’t have to make many saves, but he made enough to shut out the high-scoring Lightning. He had two shutouts against them last year, pushing the series to a Game 7 before being eliminated with a 2-0 loss.
NOTES: Lightning F J.T. Brown missed the game with an upper-body injury. … Detroit D Alexei Marchenko was knocked out of part of the game after getting checked into the glass by Vladislav Namestnikov and needing stitches to repair a cut on his forehead. … Athanasiou almost had the highlight of the night, missing the net after making a 360-degree move.