DETROIT — The day after a tightly played win over the league’s best team, the Lightning struggled against the NHL’s worst Sunday.
The game started slowly and eventually went to a shootout, ending in a 5-4 loss to the Red Wings, who were eliminated from playoff contention with six weeks left in the season.
The game’s circumstances had something to do with the Lightning’s lackluster showing.
They played a grueling, physical game against the Bruins on Saturday, finishing that contest about 18 hours before this one started. It was nearly 2 a.m. by the time the Lightning got to their hotel, only to watch the clocks immediately spring ahead an hour. Coach Jon Cooper estimated that few players got to bed before 4 a.m.
“It’s a lot of emotion and a lot of energy used,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who did not play Saturday — he returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 14 games with a lower-body injury — but spoke for his teammates about facing the Bruins.
“It might have showed a little bit in our play (Sunday). I don’t think we were happy with our decision making.”
The game’s timing doesn’t totally explain its slow pace, but games don’t exist in a vacuum, so it was a factor.
Detroit got only its 17th win Sunday. It also has two wins over Boston. The Red Wings are clearly capable of good games, but the Lightning should have been able to handle this test.
The Lightning (43-20-6) have spoken of their starts recently and the need to be the team to set the tone early and force the opponent to make adjustments. That didn’t happen Sunday.
“The first period, we kind of felt it out with them,” said center Brayden Point, who scored two goals. “The second period picked up, and by the third period it was a close game.”
That applies to a few of the Lightning’s games recently. It’s almost exactly how players described Tuesday’s loss to Boston at home.
“It’s getting pucks in, it’s physical, it’s working hard, it’s intensity,” Point said about how to set the tone of a game. “But sometimes, games like (Sunday), we just couldn’t find that early.”
The Lightning were mostly willing to chalk up the loss to an off night in tough circumstances. They saw lessons to learn about not giving up big chances but also Cooper liked the resiliency they had to come back twice from deficits, including from 4-2 in the third period.
The Red Wings’ first goal, by center Robby Fabbri, who also landed the shootout winner, came off a bad turnover in the offensive zone. Lightning forward Yanni Gourde had passed to forward Ondrej Palat, who lost the puck in the slot. Detroit forward Tyler Bertuzzi found Fabbri all alone behind the play.
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Then in the third period, McDonagh couldn’t play the puck along the wall, and it turned into a 2-on-1 for Detroit. Lightning Erik Cernak laid out on the ice, going for a block a little early, and Bertuzzi and forward Anthony Mantha traded the puck back and forth, finishing with a Bertuzzi goal.
“We didn’t make too many errors, but the ones we made were pretty glaring,” Cooper said.
Point, Cooper and McDonagh referred to the Lightning getting better as the game went on. But giving up a goal with 15 seconds left in the second period, as they did to lose their only lead of the game, turned the momentum over.
The Red Wings took advantage of blown coverage on the play. Mantha flipped a pass back to center Dylan Larkin. The puck bounced off McDonagh’s skate, and Larkin batted it in.
Detroit scored twice more early in the third period, putting the Lightning in a two-goal hole.
The Lightning had chances — a questionable high-sticking penalty on forward Nikita Kucherov negated what would have been the tying goal in the third period — but they didn’t have enough to get a win.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.
Red Wings 1-1-2-0—5
Detroit won shootout 2-1
First Period—1, Detroit, Fabbri 15 (Mantha, Bertuzzi), 10:11. Penalties—Sergachev, TB (Interference), 12:05.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Point 24 (Kucherov, Johnson), 11:11 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Verhaeghe 9, 14:57. 4, Detroit, Larkin 19 (Mantha, Bertuzzi), 19:45. Penalties—Ericsson, Det (Holding), 10:17; Fabbri, Det (Slashing), 17:25.
Third Period—5, Detroit, Mantha 16 (Larkin, Bertuzzi), 1:41 (pp). 6, Detroit, Bertuzzi 20 (Mantha, Larkin), 4:24. 7, Tampa Bay, Point 25 (Gourde), 5:55. 8, Tampa Bay, Maroon 9 (Gourde, Schenn), 11:19. Penalties—Cirelli, TB (High Sticking), 0:49; Kucherov, TB (High Sticking), 7:56; Bowey, Det (Cross Checking), 12:44.
Overtime—None. Penalties—None. Shootout_Detroit 2 (Gagner NG, Larkin G, Fabbri G), Tampa Bay 1 (Sergachev G, Point NG, Kucherov NG). Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 7-12-15-3_37. Detroit 9-7-9-3_28. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 3; Detroit 1 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McElhinney 8-7-3 (28 shots-24 saves). Detroit, Bernier 15-21-3 (37-33). A—18,841 (20,000). T—2:38. Referees—Kevin Pollock, Justin St Pierre. Linesmen—Scott Cherrey, Scott Driscoll.