PREVIEW: Lightning look to extend home dominance of Red Wings

By Field Level Media
Feb 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) attacks the puck as he is tripped from behind by Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula (51) during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of matching home-ice history.

For the first time since 2017-18, the Lightning have won their first five home games in a season. The franchise record is six, which they accomplished three years ago.

If Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the first of their two-game set is any predictor, Tampa Bay should have a great chance to tie the record when the teams play again Friday.

In the first 94 seconds, defenseman Victor Hedman tallied on an ill-timed Detroit line change and Anthony Cirelli and Ryan McDonagh scored soon after as the Lightning put up three within the first five minutes.

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The scene over 20 minutes was similar to Monday’s 5-2 win over visiting Nashville — which also featured three markers in the first after an offensive explosion.

“It’s part of our DNA,” coach Jon Cooper said of his team’s aggressive style. “When we have the puck, it’s not forwards defend, we’ve got five guys on offense. When we don’t have it, it’s five guys playing defense. That’s the way we look at it.

“There’s a little risk. Maybe the first one we were kind of all-in (on) — we were glad that went in the net — but it’s a tough league to score in. You need everybody contributing.”

Added Cooper of netting goals in bunches: “It’s better us than them, I guess.”

Blake Coleman handed out two assists Wednesday, giving the left wing 100 points for his career, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made his 34th consecutive start to remain the league’s only player to compete in every minute for his team.

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Tampa Bay owns 15 straight home wins over Detroit — one off the NHL’s top active home winning streak — and is 17-0-1 in its last 18 against its Hockeytown opponent.

The five-year point streak of 18 straight games is the fourth-longest in the league since 2005-06. The Arizona Coyotes hold the mark at 25 over the Edmonton Oilers from 2011 to 2016.

For coach Jeff Blashill, the consistently bad play by his Red Wings is alarming.

“It was a terrible start,” Blashill said. “They came out ready to play and we didn’t come out ready to play, so ultimately that’s my responsibility. They were on top of us — they were skating and winning battles and we weren’t.

“You get down 3-0 and the game’s not over by any stretch, but you’ve dug yourself a huge hole. Against this team you can’t dig a 3-0 hole.”

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Four players returned to his lineup after each being out at least six games on the NHL’s COVID-19 list — Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill, Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne — but the closest contribution from any of them was Gagner clanging a shot off the crossbar on a third-period breakaway while down 5-1.

On the good side, Detroit’s then-last-place penalty kill was 4-for-4, its forwards won 54 percent of faceoffs and the Red Wings blocked seven shots, but they still couldn’t score on the power play (0-for-4) and fired just 16 shots on Vasilevskiy.

Their lone score wasn’t even on a 5-on-5 play that required zone time and good teamwork, occurring instead off a fortunate bounce that led to Anthony Mantha’s second-period breakaway on a sweet shot past the Russian netminder.

–Field Level Media