Friday, November 14, 2008

Red Wings Show Bolts How Far Away They Are

By JC De La Torre

Perhaps Head Coach Barry Melrose's message is finally getting through. Or maybe it was the fear of being embarrassed on their home ice by the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. It could have just been an off night for the Wings, coming off that hard fought and emotional battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins a few nights ago. For whatever reason, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave the defending cup champions all they could handle before their lack of discipline allowed the Wings to rally and pull out a 4-3 battle in the shocking Wing-biased sold out crowd at St. Pete Times Forum.

You know times are tough when the bandwagoning Detroit fans pull off the Lightning jerseys they have been wearing since Tampa Bay won the cup and start sporting Red Wing jerseys again. Its been quite awhile since that's happend in Tampa Bay. I guess its just another sign that the glory years are over for the Bolts.

But with that negative, there were other signs that this hockey team does care about their image. Tampa Bay came roaring out of the first period, outshooting the defending champs and jumping to a 2-0 lead after one period on goals from Mark Recchi and on the power play by red hot Jussi Jokinen - who really is coming into his own with his 6th goal of the season.

After the first though, the Red Wings began to show why they are again one of the top contenders for the Cup - completely dominating the Lightning in the 2nd period, outshooting Tampa Bay 18-3 and getting a goal by Pavel Datsyuk to pull within one. The problem for the Bolts in the 2nd was their lack of discipline, as they lost their minds and took 5 consecutive penalties, including 3 in the final minute of the period. Olie the Goalie stood on his head in the period, making 17 saves, some highlight reel quality.

"For about four minutes in the second period we were brain dead," Lightning coach Barry Melrose told the Associated Press, "Three terrible penalties. You can't give the best team in the world a two-minute, 5-on-3 and another two-minute, 5-on-4. Detroit doesn't do that. Detroit doesn't beat itself. Tonight we beat ourselves."

Unfortunately, the three penalties in the final minute of the second would indeed allow Detroit to start the third with 4 minutes on the power play, 2 with a two man advantage. The Lightning held strong, killing 1:38 of the 5-on-3, but Henrick Zetterberg tapped in a controversial goal to tie it at two. Olaf Kolzig appeared to have the puck saved and under control, but the Red Wing players kept whacking and whacking at his pads - normally, the whistle would be blown but the referee swallowed his whistle and the puck trickled loose, allowing Zetterberg to bang it home. While not blowing the whistle was disturbing, what was more disturbing was the fact that the Lightning defenders allowed Detroit players to attack their goaltender like that.

Less than fifty seconds later, Mikael Samuelsson scored on the power play to give Detroit their first lead of the game. As the Lightning struggled to get their offense going, Zetterberg found Johan Franzen between the circles and he blasted the puck by a screened Olaf Kolzig to give Detroit a 4-2 lead. The Lightning would draw back within 1 on a goal by Matt Pettinger, which in itself was controversial as it appeared that the puck stalled on the goal line, but was kicked in by Vaclav Prospal. The play was reviewed and the goal was upheld.

Tampa Bay would get a couple more opportunties but Chris Osgood would be up to the task and the defending champions would get out of Tampa with a hard fough 4-3 victory, sending their "fans" at the Forum into celebration.

Despite their best effort in a week, Tampa Bay loses its third straight and falls to 5-7-3 on the season, still stuck on 14 pts and they are now fourth in the Southeast division, 6 points behind division leading Washington.

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