Lightning Finish Homestand With Win Over Detroit

Tampa Bay heads on the road with a 3-1 win over the Red Wings

In the final game of a season-opening five game homestand at Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning saw team captain Steven Stamkos notch his first goal of the season en route to a 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

It was Brayden Point who got the Lightning started on Thursday night, with a goal early off a centering pass from Yanni Gourde. The puck appeared to go off Point’s skate and get past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard, but referees confirmed on review that the puck was not deliberately kicked in and upheld the goal.

For a team off to a horrid first six games, the Red Wings put up a real fight in Tampa on Thursday night. Tampa Bay controlled the action for much of the first, but Detroit was still able to keep the shot total close and the margin to just one goal. They erased that Lightning lead early in the second, on a goal from Luke Glendening after some chaos in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy. For parts of the game, the Lightning displayed a sleepy style, allowing a Detroit team starving for a victory to stay close and keep that believability.

With Tampa Bay looking a little lethargic, they needed a jolt from one of their leaders. They got it from their captain, as Steven Stamkos connected on a one timer for his first tally of the 2018-19 season to put the Lightning back on top of the Red Wings.

In the third period, Tampa Bay did what teams with the lead have to do. They controlled the puck, drew penalties, and made a comeback more and more difficult for the Red Wings throughout the twenty minutes. Still, to win the game the Bolts were relying on Andrei Vasilevskiy to come up big in the effort to hold the thinnest of leads. It was Alex Killorn who notched his first goal of the season to finish it off with an empty netter late in the game.

Tampa Bay’s season opening five game homestand finishes at 4-1-0. They have killed twenty two consecutive penalties to start the season.

Callahan ‘Good To Go’ Ahead of Schedule

The Lightning got healthier on Thursday when Ryan Callahan returned to the Tampa Bay roster after missing the first four games due to injury. His recovery blew by the predicted schedule that suggested he would be out until sometime in November or even early December. Coach Jon Cooper said before the game that Callahan was “good to go” but did not say whether the forward would play against Detroit.

The right winger did end up playing, joining the fourth line alongside Cedric Paquette and J.T. Miller. Few teams have as much talent on their third line as the Lightning now have on their fourth, a level of depth that they are going to be careful to try and maintain. In a long season, that sort of depth takes pressure off of each individual player.

Adam Erne was listed as a healthy scratch to make room in the line rotation for Callahan.

Detroit Seeing Red

Detroit came in Thursday night off a miserable start to the season. Detroit had surrendered a league-high 29 goals in their first six games, going winless. They were second in the NHL in penalty minutes. In six games, they managed to score as many goals (14) as the Lightning did in their first four, a 2.33 per game average. They were averaging a margin of defeat of 2.5 goals per game.

Red Wings fans watch the Bolts closely these days. With the news just before the season that Steve Yzerman had stepped down as Lightning GM, staying on as an advisor for one more year, the Red Wings legend was immediately made the favorite for Detroit’s general manager position, one that is occupied for the moment but might not be come spring. Those who follow the Winged Wheel closely will be clamoring for such a homecoming.

Penalty Kill Watch

The biggest surprise of the season’s first four games had been Tampa Bay’s ability to kill off penalties just one summer after the penalty kill served as one of the weaknesses that held the Lightning back. A perfect 18-for-18 start coming into Thursday night was one of the headlines of the entire season. Against the Red Wings, the penalty killing lines utilized their speed to continue killing time, but they still needed plenty of help from Vasilevskiy, who put a stop to a number of good Detroit chances in order to keep the lamp from lighting.

Detroit, for all their struggles, came in converting about a third of their power play opportunities, a solid mark for the early season. The Lightning were up to the task of stopping that power play throughout the second period, which was loaded with penalties. The second period started with 50 seconds remaining on a penalty against the Lightning, and in all the Red Wings would see four power plays in the twenty minutes. They did not score on one of them, bringing the Bolts’ season-opening streak to 22. By the end of the game, that number would rise to 23, as the Lightning did not allow a goal on a penalty taken within the final minute of the game.

For the curious, the NHL record for consecutive penalties killed is 53, so it would be quite a while before the Lightning start to seriously threaten the 1999-2000 Washington Capitals in that department.

Up Next For Bolts

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s five game homestand to open the season has come to a close, but now they head out for their longest road trip of the season, an equal five game trip that will really introduce the Bolts to the grind of the 82 game hockey season.

That road trip starts with a back-to-back pair of games. On Saturday, the Lightning are in action against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild, led by Zach Parise, resurgent Erik Staal, and defenseman Ryan Suter, simply have the odds against them in the Western Conference this year. In a loaded Central division, they are likely to struggle, and in particular they will have trouble getting pucks into the net. They will provide a challenge with their defense, however, being a more than solid team at the blue line.

From there, Tampa Bay goes to Chicago for a Sunday night matchup with the Blackhawks.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.