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Lightning end road trip with 6-4 loss in Detroit

The Bolts outshoot the Red Wings but can’t overcome a three-goal deficit.
Lightning right wing Barclay Goodrow (19) and Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne (73) fight in the second period.
Lightning right wing Barclay Goodrow (19) and Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne (73) fight in the second period. [ PAUL SANCYA | AP ]
Published Mar. 12, 2021|Updated Mar. 12, 2021

The Lightning won some games they might not have deserved to during their longest road trip of the season. So, maybe Thursday night they finally got a wake-up call for some of their inconsistent play with a 6-4 loss in Detroit.

Despite 80 shots directed at Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, a resilient offense couldn’t overcome the turnovers that led to an early deficit.

“Maybe it caught up to us a little bit tonight,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said, “where we hadn’t played our best for 60 minutes as of late, and we’ve been getting some wins. So maybe it was bound to happen that, you know, we have a game like this.”

It’s difficult to look at the loss as anything but one bad night, especially since Tampa Bay is off to its best start in franchise history and entered the game tied for the most points in the league with 38.

The Lightning hadn’t lost in regulation in nearly three weeks, since Feb. 20 against Carolina, and were on a season-best 8-0-1 run heading into the game. They hadn’t lost to Detroit in regulation in more than five years, the loss snapping a 20-game point streak during which they went 19-0-1 against the Red Wings.

The Lightning (18-5-2) fell behind 5-2 early in the second period, prompting coach Jon Cooper to call a timeout to regroup his team. Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat scored consecutive goals in the final five minutes, but Vladislav Namestnikov’s empty netter with 20 seconds remaining sealed the game.

The loss was disappointing, but as the Lightning boarded their flight home late Thursday, they could still consider their three-city, six-game, 10-day road trip a successful one, going 4-1-1.

“What can you say?” Cooper said. “You give up five, it’s tough to win. We gave ourselves a chance and unfortunately got the empty netter on us, but you’ve just got to wipe this one aside because it was a long road trip. I look at the big picture. We got nine out of 12 points. It doesn’t really matter how you get them, you just got to get them.”

Detroit (8-16-4) took an early lead on three first-period goals scored on just five shots, including a bizarre go-ahead score in which Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta slid into Curtis McElhinney, forcing the Tampa Bay goaltender into the net while with the puck.

The Lightning challenged the goal, arguing that Detroit forward Anthony Mantha, whose shot McElhinney stopped, contributed to the pileup by interfering. But the ruling was upheld, and Tampa Bay went into the first intermission down 3-2.

The Red Wings came out with a surge in the second period, scoring twice in the first five minutes, both following Lightning turnovers that left McElhinney with little help.

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“It’s a tough position to be in, especially when we gave up some of the chances that we did,” Stamkos said of four Detroit goals that came off turnovers. “There wasn’t a lot of them, but the ones that they got were pretty high-quality in high-danger areas, and they had some good shots. We want to play a lot better and limit those turnovers. The ones that we did have tonight ended up in the back of the net.”

After falling behind by three goals, the Lightning had their chances. Overall, they nearly doubled Detroit’s shots on goal, 44-23. And after Stamkos scored on the Lightning’s first power play, Tampa Bay went scoreless on its other five man-advantages.

Palat hit the post twice, Cal Foote nicked a crossbar and Alex Killorn had a wide-open one-timer from the low right circle turned away by Jonathan Bernier, who made 40 saves.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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