DETROIT — Just how nasty is this Lightning-Red Wings series?
Even Lightning RW Jonathan Drouin asked LW Dylan Larkin to fight in Game 2, after the Red Wings rookie hit him high and late. Drouin hadn't fought since juniors. "It didn't happen," Drouin said.
Animosity was high in the first three games of this first-round series, the 250 combined penalty minutes about 40 percent of the entire playoffs entering Tuesday. It surprising, as these aren't considered among the most physical teams in the league. Tampa Bay ranked 14th in penalty minutes per game (9.87) and Detroit 23rd (8.77) in the regular season. The Red Wings were last in fighting majors (eight).
But with the Atlantic Division rivals meeting in the first round in back-to-back years, familiarity bred contempt.
"Both teams, we don't have goons, and we don't fight as much as other teams in the league," Tampa Bay C Cedric Paquette said. "But it's playoffs. We don't like each other. It's fun hockey."
Games 2 and 3 ended in line brawls, including C Brian Boyle infamously making a chicken gesture Sunday at Red Wings F Justin Abdelkader, who refused to drop his gloves because he was hurt and didn't want to get suspended. Boyle was booed when he touched the puck Tuesday.
Coach Jon Cooper noted the connections between the teams, with several players having faced each other in the AHL.
"When you see each other this much and you want to win this much, these things are going to happen," Cooper said. "It's just the volume of times you're playing each other and at some point emotions boil over and it just shows how much both teams want to win."
RW Ryan Callahan didn't think the physicality would continue at this pace: "As the series goes on, you get annoyed and annoyed with each other because you see the same faces night in night out," he said. "The chippiness settles down as the series goes on, because you want to stay out of the box."
Tuesday's Game 4 had 22 combined penalty minutes, all on 2-minute minors.
Bish please: It raised eyebrows when G Ben Bishop didn't take part in either Monday's practice or Tuesday's optional morning skate. But he started Game 4 and had 26 saves. Cooper said he just gave the All-Star a breather. Bishop made at least 60 starts for the third straight season.
"You can't play all 82 games, but he gets his 60 plus," Cooper said. "And the one thing about the playoffs, is it's not only physical rest but the mental rest as well. If we feel that he needs to get a little bit of a break we give it to him. He's done this before where he hasn't taken the ice then comes back and has been outstanding. He knows how to manage his body and his mind."
Nuts and bolts: For the first time in this series, the Lightning went with seven defensemen as Matt Taormina made his playoff debut. RW Erik Condra and RW Jonathan Marchessault were scratched.
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