TAMPA — The Lightning won’t be meeting the Red Wings in the postseason this year, but the Red Wings are certainly playing better than their last-place record would indicate.
They made protecting a one-goal, third-period lead tough for the Lightning Saturday, keeping Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy busy through the second and third periods after the Lightning took a quick two-goal lead.
Thanks in most part to Vasilevskiy, the Lightning outlasted the Red Wings 2-1 in the first of this weekend’s back-to-back games against Detroit at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning (26-9-2), who improved to 19-0 when leading after two periods, scored twice in the first 7:26. Rookie Ross Colton scored for the second straight game, following his momentum-shifting, game-tying score in Thursday’s win with a putback on Saturday.
Defenseman Andreas Borgman sent a puck on net from the offensive blue line, Maroon tried to force it inside the left post, and it bounced out to Colton, who scored into a wide-open net for his fourth goal and seventh point in his first 11 NHL games.
Brayden Point scored his third goal in two games, taking a well-placed touch pass from Victor Hedman through the slot and scoring from near the right post. Red Wings goalie Thomas Greiss stopped the next 22 Tampa Bay shot attempts after that.
Former Lightning forward Adam Erne made it a one-goal game four minutes into the third, and from then the Lightning had a challenge to preserve their lead.
“When we’re able to get a 2-0 lead, we should be able to shut that down, and for the most part we did,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We were pressing for a third (goal) and couldn’t get it, and it was opening us up a little bit. I thought, especially in 6-on-5, we did a pretty good job, and Vasy held it down.”
Coming off his three highest-save totals of the season in his last three starts, Vasilevskiy made 11 of his 25 saves in the third period, including two game-saving stops in the final 1:43 when Detroit added an extra attacker with an empty net.
During the 6-on-5, Detroit forward Robby Fabbri created an opening with a toe drag move and unloaded a wrister that Vasilevskiy swallowed, then Vasilevskiy made a kick save on Filip Zadina’s one-timer from the right circle following a cross-slot pass from Dylan Larkin.
Despite their record, Detroit (12-22-5) handed the Lightning a 6-4 loss in Detroit the last time the teams met, and the Lightning’s last two wins against the Red Wings have been by one goal.
“We’re going to see games like this down the stretch,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “We’re going to be playing teams down the stretch that are fighting for a playoff spot. They’re going to be tight-checking games, just like the playoffs. The neutral zone kind of shrinks in and it’s tight defensively and people are managing the puck. It’s good that we play well with the lead here down the stretch.”
Vasilevskiy recorded his league-leading 23rd win in 29 games. He was aided by 15 blocked shots from his teammates, including four by Ondrej Palat and three each by defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Hedman.
“When it comes to playing defense, you’ve got to be able to sacrifice your body sometimes,” Hedman said. “Guys did a good job of blocking shots, and Vasy made some big-time saves for us obviously as usual. It was a hard game, and it always feels a little bit special playing Detroit, it feels like, and they’re playing really good hockey as of late, so we knew it was going to be a battle.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
Red Wings 0-0-1—1
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Colton 4 (Maroon, Borgman), 4:07. 2, Tampa Bay, Point 16 (Palat, Hedman), 7:26. Penalties—Detroit bench, served by Zadina (Too Many Men on the Ice), 13:38; McDonagh, TB (Hooking), 17:10; Helm, DET (Tripping), 19:54.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Erne, DET (Illegal Check to Head), 15:58; Gourde, TB (High Sticking), 17:53.
Third Period—3, Detroit, Erne 8 (Nielsen), 4:00. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Detroit 7-7-12_26. Tampa Bay 14-6-9_29. Power-play opportunities—Detroit 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Detroit, Greiss 2-14-5 (29 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 22-5-1 (26-25). T—2:19. Referees—Francis Charron, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Ryan Daisy, Kory Nagy.
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