Red Wings-Lightning Preview
After an anemic offensive display in Game 3, the Tampa Bay Lightning made working on their power play a priority ahead of a pivotal point in the series.
Now the onus is back on the Red Wings to make adjustments after Tampa Bay's breakthrough on special teams left Detroit on the brink of elimination.
With the memory of last year's grueling seven-game first-round series still fresh, the Lightning hope to take care of business on their home ice Thursday night and get some rest.
Tampa Bay made a point of working on its power play after going 1 for 14 over the first three games of this series, including 0 for 3 in Sunday's 2-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena. Coach Jon Cooper said he also made some minor personnel changes.
The moves certainly paid off Tuesday when the Lightning scored three times on five chances with the man advantage. Ondrej Palat's power-play goal with 2:59 remaining gave them a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 advantage in the series.
"We decided to put the puck in the hands of the guys who know what to do with it and challenge them," Cooper told the team's official website. "You don't expect to go 3 for 5, and at some point special teams is going to affect a series."
Nikita Kucherov, who was second on the team during the season with nine power-play goals, scored twice and Jonathan Drouin added three assists. Kucherov has been a handful for Detroit in the four games, totaling five goals and eight points.
The Lightning hope to continue that production and earn their 19th win in the past 25 home games dating to the regular season. Including the playoffs, they've also won 10 of the last 12 home meetings with the Red Wings by a combined 39-20.
Tampa Bay doesn't want the series to drag on like it did a year ago as it tries to move on to the second round in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 12 years.
"When you have a chance to win a series at home, you want to do it," Cooper said. "It's rest, travel, jumping on a plane, more hotels, that's the part that wears on you."
The Red Wings' 25th consecutive postseason appearance could be short-lived if they don't figure out a way to iron out their own special teams issues. Not only did they allow Tampa Bay's outburst, but they've gone 1 for 21 on the power play.
Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist scored their first postseason goals in the second period Tuesday after the Lightning built a 2-0 lead. Tomas Tatar, though, came up empty after finishing with an assist in each of the first three games.
Pavel Datsyuk, who might be leaving Detroit after the playoffs, seeks his first point after having a team-high eight power-play goals during the season.
"We obviously lost the game on special teams, both the power play and the penalty kill," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We'd like to stay out of the box more than that. The fact that they punished us is what I'm most concerned with."
It certainly hasn't helped that Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop has been on his game. He owns a .937 save percentage in the series and hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his last 10 meetings with the Red Wings, including the postseason.
Detroit's Petr Mrazek could get the nod again after posting a .939 save percentage in past two contests. Jimmy Howard played better than Mrazek at the end of the regular season, but had a .891 mark while losing the first two at Tampa Bay.
''Either you win or you go home and the season's over,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.