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Lightning routed by division’s worst team

Detroit, last in the NHL Central, soundly beats division leader Tampa Bay, which has lost four of its past six.
From left, Detroit's Anthony Mantha, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith celebrate after Rasmussen scores Sunday against the Lightning in the second period.
From left, Detroit's Anthony Mantha, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith celebrate after Rasmussen scores Sunday against the Lightning in the second period. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Apr. 4
Updated Apr. 5

TAMPA — The Red Wings have been a more difficult matchup for the Lightning this season than their place in the Central Division standings would indicate.

Tampa Bay entered Sunday’s game tied for first in the division while Detroit was at the bottom, but the second game of a weekend back-to-back set was decidedly one-sided.

The Lightning lost 5-1 at Amalie Arena, aided by surrendering three goals in the final four minutes of the second period.

An injury to backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney forced the Lightning to give Christopher Gibson his first NHL start in more than three years. The 28-year-old struggled, allowing four goals on 17 shots.

It was the Lightning’s fourth loss in six games as goals continued to elude their top scorers.

“Everybody likes to score, and when you’re used to scoring, when you don’t, it gets a little uncomfortable,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And then you start taking shortcuts, thinking it’ll give yourself a better opportunity to score. The only way you can do it is really work your way out of it.”

Yanni Gourde, center, and the Lightning's other top scorers have gone cold over the past several games.
Yanni Gourde, center, and the Lightning's other top scorers have gone cold over the past several games. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Given the Lightning’s offensive balance and experience, their offensive lapses are frustrating for them.

Take away center Brayden Point’s three goals in the two games before Sunday and four of the Lightning’s past six goals have been scored by their fourth line. Steven Stamkos hasn’t scored in six straight games. Goal-less streaks for Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn reached five games.

Defenseman Victor Hedman, playing his 800th game in a Lightning uniform, scored the Lightning’s goal Sunday.

The Lightning (27-10-2) are averaging 2.1 goals a game over their past seven games. They had been averaging 3.7.

“Right now we’re in a little bit of a cold streak, and for most of the year, we were on a hot streak,” Cooper said. “At some point it’ll turn around for us, but we have to work our way up. We can’t shortcut our way out.”

Detroit goalie Thomas Greiss spent the weekend adding to the Lightning’s frustration with his stellar play, including 27 saves on 28 shots Sunday.

Stamkos might have had his team’s best look of the day, shooting a one-timer from the left circle that Greiss turned away with a sweeping stick save.

Gibson made his first start since March 30, 2018, while with the Islanders, and he hadn’t played much in general since. He had played in just two AHL games since March 2020. Cooper said Curtis McElhinney was unavailable was because he “tweaked something” in Saturday’s game.

Christopher Gibson's first NHL start since 2018 didn't exactly go smoothly.
Christopher Gibson's first NHL start since 2018 didn't exactly go smoothly. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Gibson looked rusty.

Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin opened the scoring on a power play with 13 seconds left in the first period. That score stood until 3:55 was left in the second, when an unlucky bounce hurt Gibson. He was unable to secure the puck as it bounced off the end boards and back toward the goal, and Detroit and former Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula sent it into the net.

Forward Michael Rasmussen’s rebound goal put the Red Wings up 3-0 29 seconds later.

Detroit went up 4-0 on defenseman Marc Staal’s goal with 1:02 left in the second. That came after a shot by Point hit the post on the other end.

“It’s just a reminder, you’ve got to keep focusing and keep improving every day,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “(Sunday) it was … about a five-, six-minute spurt there in our (zone), some tracking on our backchecks, little details that we need to reemphasize and refocus on here, understanding that we don’t have a lot of practice.”

The Lightning pulled Gibson with six minutes left, and Darren Helm scored an empty-netter with 5:41 left.

Notables: Lightning defenseman Ben Thomas, who spent six seasons in the minors, made his NHL debut. … Detroit’s win snapped a 17-game Lightning winning streak at home against the Red Wings that dated to Feb. 17, 2011.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

Red Wings 1-3-1—5

Lightning 0-0-1—1

First Period—1, Detroit, Larkin 7 (Hronek, Erne), 19:47 (pp). Penalties—Hronek, DET (Holding), 15:42; Schenn, TB (Slashing), 18:45.

Second Period—2, Detroit, Filppula 3 (Namestnikov, Glendening), 16:05. 3, Detroit, Rasmussen 2 (Djoos, Mantha), 16:34. 4, Detroit, Staal 3 (Mantha), 18:58. Penalties—None.

Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Hedman 7 (Foote, Stamkos), 4:12. 6, Detroit, Helm 2 (Glendening, Namestnikov), 14:19 (en). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (Interference), 11:20; DeKeyser, DET (Tripping), 14:50; DeKeyser, DET (Delay of Game), 17:05.

Shots on Goal—Detroit 5-9-4_18. Tampa Bay 7-8-13_28. Power-play opportunities—Detroit 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Detroit, Greiss 3-15-5 (28 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Gibson 0-1-0 (17-13). A—3,800 (19,092). T—2:23. Referees—Francis Charron, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Ryan Daisy, Kory Nagy

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