The Detroit Red Wings had no answer Saturday for Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Tampa gave itself a cushion early, then skated to a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings.
Adam Erne continued his breakthrough season with a career-high eighth goal at the 4 minute mark of the third period, cutting Tampa’s lead to 2-1.
The Wings had good scoring opportunities after Erne’s goal — Erne himself had a couple — but the Wings couldn’t get another past Vasilevskiy, the likely Vezina Trophy winner this season, who was tough in the late stages of the game.
“Not too satisfied right now,” forward Dylan Larkin said of the rally that fell short. “We lost 2-1, we were there. (We) again didn’t have the best start but we battled back into the game.
“Vasilevskiy was good, he did what he does.”
Tampa’s Ross Colton and Brayden Point scored 3:19 apart in the first period, but it was Vasilevskiy who starred against the Wings with 25 saves including numerous big stops late to preserve the lead.
“In my mind he’s the best (goaltender) in the league, and might be by a lot,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s not any disrespect to the other goalies but he’s real good. You have to find ways to score. One of the ways that you can score on any goaltender is make sure you have great traffic and score dirty (goals). … We have to continue to find ways to score those dirty goals.”
The teams will complete the weekend back-to-back with another game Sunday (noon, NBC/WWJ 950). The Wings have lost 17 straight regular-season games in Tampa.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped 27 shots for the Wings, extending his improved play of late.
The play of Greiss, and a Wings’ penalty kill that snuffed three Tampa power plays, were other key reasons the Wings were able to stay close.
“We had some big penalty kills, one in the second (period) and third, are those are big and keeps the thing at 2-0,” Blashill said. “(Greiss) was good, he made a number of good saves again, kept us in it. The goalie can keep you in the game.
“He looks like he’s on top of his game, like the beginning of the season. He’s worked with Jeff Salajko (Wings’ goaltending coach) to kind of get his game back to the level he’s been at different times in his career and this season.”
Other than Greiss, the other Wing who really stood out was Erne, who continues to make an unexpected impact offensively.
Frans Nielsen centered a pass in front to Erne, who was fighting for position and slipped a puck past Vasilevskiy near the post, cutting the Tampa lead to 2-1.
It was the third goal in five games for Erne, who reached his career high in goals while playing against the Tampa team that traded him to the Wings in August 2019.
“Erne has done a good job,” Blashill said. “Eight goals on our team right now is a real good statement from him.”
The goal energized the Wings, who followed with some good shifts.
But Vasilevskiy, who defeated the Wings for the 12th consecutive time, was powerful in net.
As has been the case too often from the Wings’ perspective, a brief spurt or bad period, in this case the first period, hurt them again.
“They looked like a real good hockey team (in the opening 20 minutes),” Larkin said. “The puck movement, we didn’t have an answer for it. We didn’t grind them enough to start the game. But you have to tip your hat to plays being made in this league and they certainly made some good plays there.
“We responded and Greisser was great the rest of the game. We just came up short but we can’t keep coming up short in games like this, against teams like this. We have to start getting results and it’s not going to be easy.
“But you can’t be satisfied with a 2-1 loss.”
Red Wings at Lightning
Faceoff: Noon Sunday, Amalie Arena.
TV/radio: NBC (Channel 4)/WWJ-950 AM.
Outlook: The Red Wings (12-22-5) and Tampa (26-9-2) conclude their weekend back-to-back series. … The Lightning have won four of the five meetings this season and have defeated the Wings 17 straight regular season games in Tampa…The Wings continue without G Jonathan Bernier, RW Bobby Ryan and LW Sam Gagner, all some could return Sunday….RW Evgeny Svechnikov cleared waivers and remains in the Wings’ organization