A pair of power-play goals lifted Tampa Bay (28-18-14) to its ninth
win in 10 games, with center Tyler Johnson scoring the go-ahead goal
in the second period and right winger Nikita Kucherov, who assisted
on Johnson's goal, adding a goal in the third period.
"We'd been playing pretty well -- we'll take the layoff any day,"
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after his first game in seven days.
"We needed the break. To come out with a win, especially against a
team you're battling, was really big for us."
Detroit (25-17-8) got only one goal past Lightning goalie Ben
Bishop, who finished with 24 saves after playing in the All-Star
Game in Nashville on Sunday. Bishop earned his 100th regular-season
win with Tampa Bay in four seasons with the Lightning.
The two teams came out of the All-Star break tied for second in the
Atlantic Division with Boston, so the Lightning move into second on
their own, five points behind idle Florida.
Tampa Bay got a much needed cushion early in the third when Kucherov
scored his 21st goal of the season, matching center Steven Stamkos
for the team lead. Kucherov scored on a pass from behind the net by
left winger Ondrej Palat, making it a 3-1 game with 16:37 left.
The Lightning went into the third period with a 2-1 lead, thanks to
Johnson scoring a power-play goal -- his sixth goal of the season -
with 13:30 left in the second, beating Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek.
Johnson flipped the puck past Mrazek for just his second goal since
November after receiving a pass from Kucherov, who faked a shot
before passing to Johnson and getting his 22nd assist.
"Overall, we're a lot better now than we were at the start of the
season," Johnson said. "We always talk that when teams come into
Tampa, we want them to be ready to have a big game. At the start of
the season, teams were taking some liberties here."
Tampa Bay had taken a 1-0 lead early in the second period, with
right winger J.T. Brown getting his fifth goal. He scored after
getting a sharp pass from defenseman Braydon Coburn that went across
the goal mouth as Brown broke toward the net from the left side with
18:37left in the period.
That lead didn't last long, however, as Detroit tied the game at 1-1
less than four minutes later.
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The Red Wings scored off a rebound, as center Tomas Tatar fired a
shot that bounced off the pad of Bishop and directly to forward
Gustav Nyquist, who fired a shot past Bishop for his 14th goal of
the season with 14:54 left in the period.
"I don't think we're shooting enough like we did last year -- we had
a lot of rebound goals last year because we were putting pucks on
net," Nyquist said of Detroit's continued struggles on the power
play. "Now we're hesitating because it hasn't been clicking. We've
got to get that thing going for sure to get our team going."
If the Lightning can get Johnson back to the form he had last season
before being limited by injuries in the playoffs, it will help their
chances of making another deep postseason run.
"He's a good player," Nyquist said. "I know him well, from playing
in both the AHL and up here. He's a small guy but plays heavy on the
puck, makes plays and has a good shot."
NOTES: Both teams came back from a long hiatus during the All-Star
break, with the Lightning playing for the first time in seven days
and the Red Wings for the first time in nine. Tampa Bay came in with
eight wins in its previous nine games, while Detroit had just two
wins in its last five games before the break. ... Tampa Bay
continues to rotate its last forward spot, with C Jonathan
Marchessault a healthy scratch Wednesday, along with D Matthew
Carle. ... Detroit had C Riley Sheahan as a healthy scratch ... The
Red Wings have a back-to-back turnaround, playing at the Florida
Panthers on Thursday night before returning home for a five-game
home stand, while the Lightning are home Friday against the
Pittsburgh Penguins before a two-game road trip.
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