It can come so fast, so deadly. Victor Hedman put the puck in the top right corner of the net, taking a feed from Jonathan Drouin, and the Tampa Bay Lightning had snapped a 2-2 tie with the Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning had the lead with 13:05 to play.
And then the call was reversed. No goal. The replays showed that Drouin had been offside as he passed the puck before Hedman, and the lead was wiped away.
No goal? No sweat.
Less than three minutes later, the Lightning scored again, this time on a shot by Alex Killorn, to take a 1-0. That is potentially a huge win when you consider that the Lightning trailed 2-0 in last year’s series before winning it in seven.
“Guys weren’t rattled on the bench,” said coach Jon Cooper. “There was not one sense of ‘we’re in trouble.’ Guys were calm. They were disappointed, but they weren’t saying “Oh, poor us. Our response was outstanding.”
Perhaps it was that refusal to hang their heads, and perhaps it was the playoff experience of a year ago, that led the Lightning to its win. Perhaps, too, it was that the Lightning played the way it must to win.
Hedman played 29:26 to lead the Bolts. Ben Bishop stopped 34 of 36 shots. Nikita Kucherov scored twice. The Lightning penalty kill held Detroit scoreless on five power plays. Tyler Johnson, Killorn and Kucherov were all plus three.
Yeah, that’s the way the Bolts have to play to survive the absence of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman.
In particular, Kucherov was sensational with two goals. He scored 30 in the regular season.
“He’s really talented,” Cooper said. “He made the choice when he came into this league to be a player. He had offensive talent, but he learned to play on his own end.”