TAMPA, Florida -- The Red Wings put in a solid effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was in his most solid form after allowing nine goals in his past two games, allowing the Lightning to take a 1-0 win and snap a 3-game losing streak.
Detroit most definitely dominated the first period of play. The Lightning looked tentative and unsure of themselves. Only Khabibulin showed any confidence, stopping nine Detroit shots over the period.
Khabibulin's confidence must have infected his teammates, because the second period was Curtis Joseph's turn to shine. The Lightning doubled the Red Wings' shots on net by a total of 18-9 in the second twenty minutes, but Joseph was up to the challenge, stopping first shots and allowing hardly any rebounds to bounce back out to a waiting Tampa Bay player.
The Lightning finally scored their goal early in the third period by capitalizing on a turnover in the corner behind the net. Vaclav Prospal got the puck away from Jason Woolley, then brought it out front and sent it across the crease to Brad Richards. Richards was able to put the wrist shot into the net before Joseph could slide across to cover.
The Red Wings put all their effort into scoring after that. Khabibulin continued to be huge in net, and the goalposts proved to be a blessing for him and his team. Henrik Zetterberg, Darren McCarty, and Brendan Shanahan all had shots go through which beat Khabibulin, but rang off the metal and out instead of sailing into the back of the net.
Brett Hull, who had six shots on net, was left shaking his head in amazement at the goaltending acrobatics on both ends of the ice. "I thought both goalies were fabulous," he said. "That, to me, is the way hockey should be played. It's wide open. There ain't a guy who left this arena who wasn't entertained, and I think that's what the league is going for."
Hull's "wide open" comment may have also been referring to the rarity of having very few penalties called during the game: each team had exactly one chance with the power play, both in the second period.
The final count of shots on net was 32-30 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings' next game will be Wednesday night against the Florida Panthers.
Notes: Chris Chelios reported that a decision about when he will return from his leg injury will be made before Wednesday's game.... We're halfway through the season, so it's time to check the league standings and find out what the matchups would be if the playoffs started today. In the Eastern Conference, it would be the #1 Ottawa Senators vs. the #8 New York Islanders, the #2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. the #7 Washington Capitals, the #3 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the #6 Toronto Maple Leafs, and the #4 New Jersey Devils vs. the #5 Boston Bruins. The Western Conference would see the #1 Dallas Stars vs. the #8 Colorado Avalanche, the #2 Detroit Red Wings vs. the # 7 Edmonton Oilers, the #3 Vancouver Canucks vs. the #6 Chicago Blackhawks, and the #4 St. Louis Blues vs. the #5 Minnesota Wild.