The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning have not lost a game this season when leading after two periods. The last two NHL teams to pull off that feat in the regular season — Pittsburgh in 2016 and Chicago in 2015 — went on to hoist the Cup.
DETROIT, MI – MAY 2: Detroit Red Wings D Troy Stecher (70) passes the puck while losing an edge during NHL game between Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings on May 2, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI (Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“I like those stats,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Sunday, holding onto a lead after 40 minutes for the 25th time this year.
Blake Coleman scored 16 seconds into the game, Mikhail Sergachev added another goal early in the second period, and the Lightning killed three penalties late in the game.
“It’s definitely not the way you draw it up, taking three penalties consecutive, but the kill was championship hockey,” Coleman said. “That’s how you have to close out games.”
DETROIT, MI – MAY 2: Tampa Bay Lightning G Christopher Gibson (33) faces a shot during NHL game between Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings on May 2, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI (Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tampa Bay’s Christopher Gibson had 22 saves, filling in for star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Cooper said the team has a plan for how to use Vasilevskiy and that included scratching him for a second straight game.
Jonathan Bernier gave up a goal on the game’s first shot and finished with 40 saves for the Red Wings, who went 0 for 4 on the power play.
“Our goaltending has been very good, and our power play hasn’t been good enough,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Bernie was good, and when we needed our power play to score, they didn’t.”
Filip Zadina scored from the left circle on a one-timer with 6:23 left in the second, trimming Detroit’s deficit to one.
DETROIT, MI – MAY 02: Christopher Gibson #33 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save on a shot from Joseph Veleno #90 of the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on May 2, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
With 5:54 left in the third, the Lightning had three players in the box. Detroit did not take advantage of a 5-on-3 situation.
The Lightning are 5-0-1 in their last six games, pulling within two points of Central Division-leading Carolina and into a tie with Florida.
A day after Detroit shut out Tampa Bay 1-0 in an eight-round shootout, the Lightning appeared to be very motivated to start strong against a banged-up rebuilding team.
“They threw everything at us in the first period, but we were still in the game at the end,” Bernier said.
DETROIT, MI – MAY 2: Detroit Red Wings G Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a stop despite getting sprayed with ice during NHL game between Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings on May 2, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI (Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek turned the puck over behind Bernier to Tampa Bay center Barclay Goodrow, and he set up Coleman for a one-timer in the opening sequence of the game. Sergachev took a shot through traffic from just inside the blue line and it went between Bernier’s pads 1:09 into the second.
ON THE MOVE
Detroit recalled forward Joe Veleno from the taxi squad and put him in the lineup for the fourth time this season.
ONE FOR GIBBY
The 28-year-old Gibby won a game for the first time since March 20, 2018, when he played for the New York Islanders. The seldom-used goalie is 1-1 this season and 4-5-3 over his career.
“He’s just one of those guys you root for,” Coleman said. “Guys were talking between periods, `Let’s get this for Gibby.’ It’s great for him and great for the team.”
SEE YA LATER
The Red Wings raised their sticks to thank about 750 fans in the stands after their final home game. They are hoping the situation with the pandemic improves enough to pack Little Caesars Arena next season.
“The whole year didn’t feel right,” Bernier said. “It’s been surreal and I can’t believe we’ve only got two games left. This isn’t as much fun. The fans bring a lot of energy and hopefully we’ll be able to start on time in September and have our fans back.”
Tampa Bay returns home for two games against Dallas, which is three points behind Nashville for the division’s fourth and final spot in the playoffs. The Lightning host the Stars on Wednesday and Friday before closing the regular season at Florida on Saturday and next Monday.
Detroit ends the season on Friday and Saturday against Columbus in a series that might determine which team finishes last in the division. The Red Wings failed to earn a spot in the postseason for a fifth straight year, their longest drought since 1979-83.
“It’s a strange ending to a strange season,” Blashill said.
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