Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning-Wings: A playoff series that packs a wallop (w/video)

TAMPA — Tell you one thing. This is going to be a fun series.

It's going to be nasty. It's going to be ugly. It's going to be a blast.

And it's going to be long. Six games, at least. Maybe seven if Wednesday's Game 1 back-alley brawl is any indication.

"There is so much passion and adrenaline going through everybody," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Early in the series, everybody is ready and is jacked up."

The Lightning and Red Wings might not be as good as they were a year ago when they slugged it out for seven topsy-turvy games, but they are as evenly matched as ever.

Typically, it takes two or three games before a series has enough animosity and pent-up frustration to boil over into a steel-caged match. Usually, it takes a couple of games before the sides get sick enough of each other that a sideways glance is reason enough to sock someone in the nose with a smelly glove.

"There's a lot of familiarity with them," said Alex Killorn, who notched the winning goal midway through the third period of Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory.

"Usually we start off kind of slow in these playoff series."

Not this year. The Lightning and Red Wings have fast-forwarded through all the preliminaries and moved straight to the main event, right to the juicy stuff. They have picked up right where they left off last spring.

Call this Lightning vs. Red Wings, Game 8.

The MVP of this series might end up being a trainer. Every whistle was the start of a why-I-oughta scrum. Every skate into the corner required taking a hard shoulder to escape. And don't even think about standing in front of the net unless you're willing to wear a cross-check to the shoulder blades.

"Real good game," Lightning center Valtteri Filppula said. "Goals hard to get. Not a lot of room out there. This game is what the playoffs are about."

If there was any concern that the Lightning would be able to flip the switch from the inconsistent and occasionally unfocused regular-season team to a finely-tuned and motivated postseason one, those worries were put to rest immediately.

"We were ready," Filppula said.

The Lightning clearly is in playoff mode, even if it is missing key pieces Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman.

It played hard. It played smart. And it played with an edge. Even normally mild-mannered players such as Alex Killorn and Nikita Nesterov showed mean streaks. Heck, you know it's tough when Jonathan Drouin is starting trouble out there.

"You're watching guys that don't normally do this," Cooper said. "Players on both teams were rocking guys."

And if you wanted proof that playoff experience does, indeed, exist, the Lightning proved it by overcoming obstacles to gut out a Game 1 victory.

After falling behind 2-1 by allowing goals less than two minutes apart early in the second period, the Lightning rallied to tie it on Nikita Kucherov's second goal of the game later in the period.

But it's what happened in the third that showed the Lightning's mettle. Victor Hedman's wicked knuckle-puck goal appeared to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead with 13:05 left in regulation. The crowd went bonkers as the teammates mobbed Hedman.

Game over, right?

But replay review correctly showed Drouin was offside and the goal was waved off. It could have been a gut punch. It turned out to be a kick-start.

Less than three minutes later, Killorn scored the winner, tipping in a perfect pass from Tyler Johnson, who wasn't even sure eight hours earlier that he would be available to play because of an injury.

The Lightning, however, can't let up. The Red Wings gave no indication they will be pushovers. The Lightning certainly has its hands full, which just goes to show you the rejuvenation power of the playoffs.

Both teams struggled down the stretch in the regular season and, essentially, backed into the playoffs when the Bruins bumbled their way through the last month. But both teams hit the reset button and certainly looked postseason worthy in Game 1.

The Lightning players you would expect to stand out in these types of games did. Ryan Callahan handed out checks like he was the payroll department. Hedman was a beast, picking up where he left off last postseason by proving he's one the franchise's all-time big-game players. And Kucherov, with a pair of goals, picked up the scoring slack with the absence of Stamkos.

Meantime, as needed to make any playoff series worth its salt, the goaltending was outstanding. Jimmy Howard was pretty good for Detroit. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was better.

Tampa Bay came into the series knowing it would need a huge effort by its team MVP Bishop just to have a chance. Bishop gave his club such a performance. And it's that type of play that has the Lightning hopeful of another deep playoff run.

But that run, as the hockey cliche goes, is a marathon not a sprint, and it starts with this series.

It's not going to be easy. It won't always be pretty.

But it will be fun. And long.

The Lightning and Red Wings get up close and personal during the second period, one of many skirmishes in Game 1.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Lightning and Red Wings get up close and personal during the second period, one of many skirmishes in Game 1.

Lightning-Wings: A playoff series that packs a wallop (w/video) 04/13/16 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2016 7:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Rays journal: Jake Odorizzi goes on 10-day DL with back strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi is hoping his struggles this season can be tied directly to the lower-back strain he has tried to pitch through since spring training. Toward that end, the Rays placed Odorizzi on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday retroactive to Tuesday.

    Rays center fielder Mallex Smith smiles after hitting a single advancing runners in the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It is going to get interesting tonight when the Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York. The Rays feel they are good enough to win the East Division. These next four games and the four that follow in Houston will be a good measuring stick.