Sitting three points back from the Boston Bruins with a game in hand, the Lightning had the opportunity to get back within a point of the last wild card spot on Thursday night when the Detroit Red Wings came to town. The Red Wings, who were eliminated from the playoff picture late Tuesday evening for the first time in 25 years, would face a Lightning team who was without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who was a late scratch after falling ill.
The Lightning and the Red Wings played the final game of their five-game regular season series and third of three at Amalie Arena, with the Lightning hoping to complete the season sweep against the Wings for the first time in franchise history. Previously, Tampa Bay had won eight in a row at home in the regular season over Detroit, and hadn’t lost at home to the Red Wings in the regular season since a 6-2 defeat on February 17, 2011.
During their last matchup, Detroit’s Anthony Mantha got into tussle with Lightning forward Greg McKegg, giving him a shot while McKegg was down on the ice. Defenseman, and sometimes forward, Luke Witkowski, dropped the gloves with Mantha 3:47 into the game and gave his own shots after Mantha went down. Unfortunately, Mantha would leave the game with an upper body injury and would not return.
Seeing how lonely Witkowski was in the box by himself, J.T. Brown dropped the gloves with Xavier Ouellet at 5:41 of the first, and would go on to score his third of the year at 18:58 with the assist to Gabriel Dumont. It was Brown’s first goal since November 14.
Andrej Sustr scored 2:22 into the second period, also getting his third of the year off a rebound of an Ondrej Palat shot. After scoring vs Minnesota on March 9th, Sustr requested that his goal song be “Oops I Did It Again” by Britney Spears, and the media department at Amalie Arena made his dreams come true as the song poured out of the speakers. The goal was Sustr’s eighth goal in 268 NHL games.
Danny DeKeyser would get a lucky bounce of Jake Dotchin’s leg at 12:46 in the second to even up the game but as Dylan Larkin went off for roughing against Dotchin at 15:47, Alex Killorn would score his 18th of the season off of DeKeyser’s stick at 16:13. Killorn also had his own goal song, by his request, “Killing in the Name of” by Rage Against the Machine.
Jonathan Drouin tallied his 21st of the season at 18:04 of the second with assists to Victor Hedman and Brayden Point. The assist put Hedman in sole possession of assists in a single season by a defenseman, passing Roman Hamrlik (49 in 1995-1996). Coming into the game, Hemdan was third in NHL defensemen scoring leaders, surpassed only by Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (68pts) and San Jose’s Brent Burns (73pts).
Yanni Gourde nabbed his third of the season at 6:03 of the third with an assist to Palat and Sustr to put the Lightning up 5-2 over the Wings, but Detroit would answer back at 8:18 with a goal from defenseman Mike Green to cut the Lightning lead to 5-3.
With 2:28 left in the third, Detroit would pull goaltender Petr Mrazek for the extra attacker, but failed to pot another goal as the Lightning took the two points.
The Carolina Hurricanes are hot on the Lightning’s heels with a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They currently sit at 84 points, one behind the Bolts.
The Boston Bruins moved up to 88 points with a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars. The Lightning remain three points back of them.
The Toronto Maple Leafs grabbed a win from the Nashville Predators and currently occupy the third spot in the Atlantic with 89 points.
The New York Islanders failed to get any traction thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers taking the game 6-3. New York has 82 points, three behind the Bolts.
Possible Upcoming Milestones
Nikita Kucherov (31 career power-play goals) needs one power-play goal to tie Fredrik Modin (32) for ninth place on the Bolts’ alltime power-play goals list.
“He seems to make big plays at big times when we need it. And he did it again tonight.” – Coach Jon Cooper on Jonathan Drouin.
“You really like to see those guys get rewarded because they do so much.” – Alex Killorn on Brown and Sustr scoring.
“It was a team effort that one. Everybody contributed in some way.” – Coach Jon Cooper
“I was just trying to get to the net. Pally made a great play and I was fortunate to be in the right spot.” – Andrej Sustr
“It definitely felt good. But I have to give credit to my linemates, they made it easy for me.” – J.T. Brown on his goal.
“Losing Kuch right before the game, it’s not easy to replace. But guys stepped up. That was huge.” – Victor Hedman
The Bolts are off tomorrow.
Six to go in the regular season.
Tampa Bay will host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at 7:00 PM..