It could have been a close call, but thanks to magnificent goaltending by Curtis Joseph and a timely late goal by Brendan Shanahan, the Red Wings extended their winning streak with a 3-2 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Red Wings dominated the game in the first period and got out to an early 2-0 lead. Their first goal came on the power play with Alexander Svitov in the box for hooking. Pavel Datsyuk passed the puck neatly into the high slot area. Nicklas Lidstrom had come in unnoticed from the blue line, and he one-timed a wrist shot that beat Tampa Bay goalie John Grahame high on the glove side.
Mathieu Dandenault extended the lead a few minutes later. Igor Larionov slid the puck across to Dandenault at the right point, and Dandenault let fly a slapshot which sailed into the net past Grahame.
The Lightning came into their own in the second period, aided by a number of power play chances. Dan Boyle scored with a slapshot from the blue line less than 30 seconds into the second period, just as an interference penalty to Maxim Kuznetsov was coming to its end. The goal energized the Tampa Bay team, and only a spectacular display of goaltending by Joseph kept them from tying up the game as they continued to pressure throughout the second and third periods.
Tampa Bay had an excellent chance to score again midway through the second when they gained over a minute of five-on-three power play time. Boyd Devereaux was sent to the box for holding the stick, and 54 seconds later, Kuznetsov was sent out for slashing. Steve Yzerman, Kirk Maltby, and Lidstrom were the three skaters to kill off the penalty, and they did an excellent job. Yzerman cleanly won a faceoff deep in the Detroit zone, and Maltby sent the puck down the ice. The Lightning brought it back, but Joseph stopped them in their tracks, ending the penalty without giving up a goal.
Coach Dave Lewis had much praise for his starting goaltender. "We had a tremendous first period, and then I thought Curtis Joseph took over. He was the difference in the game."
Shanahan gave the Wings a two-goal cushion late in the third period. Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck from a Tampa Bay defender along the boards and made a soft centering pass to Shanahan, who put the puck high over Grahame.
The Lightning pulled Grahame from the net for the final minute and a half, and were aided by another power play. With six skaters out to Detroit's four, Vincent Lecavalier threaded a pass through to Vaclav Prospal near the corner of the net, and Prospal put the puck in high as Joseph scrambled to get across. Grahame had to go back in net for the faceoff at center ice, and there simply wasn't enough time left on the clock for the Lightning to mount another attack.
Joseph made 33 saves throughout the course of the game. Grahame made 19 saves. The Red Wings' next opponent will be the St. Louis Blues, who visit the Joe on Friday night. Expect intensity: the Blues are just two points behind the Wings in the playoff race, and will be seeking to gain the top spot in the Central Division.
Notes: Sergei Fedorov (back) and Chris Chelios (knee) both sat out for the second straight game.... Dmitri Bykov had to leave the game early in the third after being sticked in the face. He had to have stitches on the bottom of his left eyelid and the top of his nose, but team doctors didn't believe there was any damage to the eye itself.... Datsyuk has 4 goals and 15 assists for 19 points in his last 11 games.
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