By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – Nikita Kucherov brought his league-wide goaltender-annihilation tour to Detroit on Monday, as he scored (twice) for the sixth straight game to give him goals in every game this season.
His go-ahead goal early in the third period – the second of two for Kucherov – proved to be the game-winning marker in a 3-2 win for the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings. Tyler Johnson had a shorthanded tally.
Despite strong 5-on-5 play, Detroit went 0-for-6 with the man advantage and gave up a shorthanded goal, while Tampa Bay went 1-for 5 on their power play.
“I thought we were the better team 5-on-5; in the end, the difference would’ve been specialty teams,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said. They scored two on specialty teams and we scored zero, and that’s the difference. I thought our power play had looks for sure, but we didn’t score and we gave up a shorty. That’s a hard combination. It’s hard to give up shorties when you don’t rebound and score.”
Mike Green scored for Detroit in the loss for his ninth point of the season in the loss, while Justin Abdelkader potted the first-ever penalty-shot goal inside Little Caesars Arena.
Johnson opened the scoring with a shorthanded tally at 9:15 of the opening frame, as he broke down the ice for a breakaway and tucked one home past Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard with a backhand-forehand deke.
Kucherov already owned the franchise record for scoring in each of his first five games this season, and just past the halfway point of the period, he added his sixth of the year, a power-play goal, to extend the Bolts’ lead to two.
“He’s one of the best players in the league, no question… He’s got lots of poise, a great stick and an excellent mind,” Blashill said.
Xavier Ouellet prevented the Lightning from striking once more, as he dropped to his knees to block a Brayden Point attempt. At the back door, Point had a wide-open cage to shoot at before Ouellet dropped down to make the stop.
At 2:30 of the second period, Abdelkader was slashed on a breakaway, but Darren Helm followed up and put the rebound away to bring Detroit within one. However, because Abdelkader slid into Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy going for his own rebound, it was ruled there was goaltender interference on the play and, thus, no goal.
Instead, in a twist of fate, Abdelkader earned a penalty shot opportunity on the play. And he made sure he delivered in what was the first-ever penalty shot attempt inside the LCA, as he slid one through the five-hole of Vasilevskiy.
“I did get a shot off and I thought there was a good chance – because the ref had mentioned if it wasn’t allowed, it’d be a penalty shot, so obviously I was preparing myself in case that happened,” Abdelkader said.
“I just wanted to come down and give him a little fake on the shot and backhand-forehand, thought I could possibly squeeze it between his legs. He’s a bigger goalie, so I thought I could take advantage of that.”
Green continued his strong start to the season, scoring his first of the season on a rebound opportunity to even things up at two, his ninth point of the young campaign.
But early in the third, it was Kucherov who scored his seventh of the season after a failed clearing attempt by Detroit. A shot on goal saw the puck bounce around in front, and Kucherov poked it past Howard as he attempted to cover the puck.
That goal stood to be the game-winning marker.
The Wings next head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
“It was fun to be back in LCA again,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know we have a tough one here in Toronto and then two at home, so it’s a fun week for us, and we’re ready for it.”