DETROIT — The Lightning was a confident group Sunday, wing Alex Killorn admitted, as evidenced by its loose and loud morning skate.
Maybe a bit too confident.
Tampa Bay knew the Red Wings would come out flying, desperately trying to avoid falling into a seemingly insurmountable 0-3 hole in the best-of-seven playoff series. And the Lightning didn't come close to matching them, falling flat in a 2-0 loss in Game 3 in front of an sellout crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
Tampa Bay still leads the first-round series 2-1 heading into Tuesday's Game 4, but its grip feels as slippery as the octopi tossed onto the ice.
"I'm not so sure myself, their coach or anybody in this room was picking this to be a sweep," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "So it went from us pinning them up against the wall to now it's a series.
"They were desperate to win a hockey game. We just came to play a hockey game."
The Red Wings shook things up with lineup changes, including replacing goaltender Jimmy Howard with Petr Mrazek, who starred against the Lightning in last year's first round. But this wasn't the case of a hot goalie stealing a game. Mrazek faced just 16 shots — seven combined in final two periods.
"I don't know if they needed a goaltender tonight, to be honest," Cooper said.
That was partly because the Lightning spent large portions of the game on the penalty kill, going 7-for-7. "It's hard to get chances when you're shorthanded for the whole game," goalie Ben Bishop said.
While the Lightning gave the Red Wings credit for their work defensively, center Tyler Johnson said it came down to compete level — Tampa Bay didn't have enough.
That included Johnson's red-hot line with Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov, which had scored seven of the team's eight goals in the first two games but had zero combined shots and eight penalty minutes Sunday. The Red Wings, taking advantage of having the second line change, used a new trio of Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan, which made the Johnson line work defensively in combining for five shots.
"It's frustrating that we just didn't play our best," Johnson said. "We know we need to be better. The team needs to be better. It starts with us."
But it shouldn't end with them. The Lightning continued to struggle with secondary scoring, and its power play went 0-for-3.
Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith set the tone with a huge hit on Cedric Paquette three minutes in. But the Lightning weathered the storm in the first period, killing off a minute of a 5-on-3 power play. The Red Wings kept pushing, outshooting the Lightning 30-16. Andreas Athanasiou beat Bishop with a one-timer in the second, and Henrik Zetterberg pounced on a loose puck in the crease for a goal that withstood a review and a coach's challenge.
This time, the Lightning was taking frustration penalties at the buzzer.
"It's going to be a whole new ball game in a couple nights," Johnson said.
First—None. Penalties—Coburn, TB (tripping), 4:34; Helm, Det (embellishment), 4:34; Johnson, TB (tripping), 14:32; Palat, TB (tripping), 15:33.
Second—1, Detroit, Athanasiou 1 (Tatar, Andersson), 12:42. 2, Detroit, Zetterberg 1, 17:22. Penalties—Sustr, TB (hooking), 5:26; Hedman, TB (slashing), 7:37; Zetterberg, Det (interference), 18:52.
Third—None. Penalties—Kucherov, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), :58; Helm, Det (unsportsmanlike conduct), :58; Kronwall, Det (holding), 2:23; Johnson, TB (hooking), 3:20; Killorn, TB (tripping), 5:47; Datsyuk, Det (tripping), 14:20; Coburn, TB (interference), 17:43. Shots—Tampa Bay 9-3-4—16. Detroit 12-11-7—30. PPs—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Detroit 0 of 7. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 2-1-0 (30 shots-28 saves). Detroit, Mrazek 1-0-0 (16-16). A—20,027 (20,027). T—16:51. Referees—Gord Dwyer, Eric Furlatt. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Tim Nowak.