TAMPA, Fla. – Heading into Tuesday night’s game against visiting Detroit, with former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde behind the Red Wings bench, the Bolts were on an 8-2-0 run in which they cleaned up a lot of the slop that often got in their way during the season’s first few weeks.
While there were plenty of anxious moments during an exciting 4-3 overtime win against Toronto on Saturday night that began a six-game homestand, it did not compare to Tuesday when the Lightning had an unpardonably sloppy first period in what would be a 4-2 defeat.
Thanks to Andrei Vasilevskiy – How many times have we said that? – the Bolts escaped the first 20 minutes unharmed on the scoreboard, as neither team registered a goal.
By the end of the second period, the Lightning had 14 giveaways to zero for the Red Wings and trailed only 1-0.
“A lot of bad habits we have had as a team at times during the year came flooding out,” said coach Jon Cooper, of the first period and part of the second. “You are not going to win NHL games doing what we did.”
The Lightning fell behind 2-0 in the third period when they recorded 30 shots on goal, the second-most in team history for a single period. While they twice came within a goal with Vasilevskiy pulled, Detroit mixed in a pair of empty-netters.
For their part, the Red Wings’ two points equaled the Lightning’s 31. Given the head-to-head win, Detroit nudged ahead of Tampa Bay and into third place in the Atlantic Division.
“It was a big one,” said Brayden Point. “But there is still a lot of hockey left to played.”
How long Lalonde’s Red Wings stick around and perhaps snap a string of six consecutive playoff-less seasons, will be determined over the course of their next 57 games. You have to like their group, though. It is one that includes a number of young players who have been growing together for the past couple of years.
In other words, the Atlantic Division could be crowded down the stretch with the Lightning battling Boston, Toronto and perhaps the Red Wings and Panthers for playoff position. Let’s not dismiss the Sabres and Canadiens. It is early December, after all.
The Lightning can still have an outstanding homestand, which resumes Thursday night against Nashville and continues Saturday afternoon (4:30) against the Panthers. Seattle comes to Amalie next Tuesday, followed by Columbus on Thursday.
Steven Stamkos will head into Thursday night’s game against the Predators with an 11-game point streak. He is 7-10-17 during a streak that began November 13 at home against Washington. He had a career-high 18-game point streak in 2009-10.