The Detroit Red Wings came away with two points and a boost to their confidence from weekend games against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
They used a hardworking effort Sunday to bank a 5-1 victory, their first regular-season victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena since Feb. 17, 2011 — the Wings were 0-16-1 since. It’s the second win in six contests this season for the Wings (13-22-5) against the Bolts.
“Having success against them certainly feels good,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They’re the defending champions. But at the end, for me, it’s about playing the right away and how the process of it went and I thought our process was pretty good.”
It was the Wings’ most productive performance since defeating the Lightning, 6-4, on March 11. Dylan Larkin used a power play to make it 1-0 in the first period, and Valtteri Filppula, Michael Rasmussen and Marc Staal scored less than three minutes apart in the second period.
“We played well from the start,” Rasmussen said. “Everyone played well. We clogged up the neutral zone pretty good and stuck to our system.
“We can play with whoever as long as we are playing our game, as long as everyone is working hard. It was a good win.”
Thomas Greiss’ bid for a shutout ended early in the third period, when Victor Hedman took a backhand pass from Steve Stamkos and scored from the high slot.
Darren Helm — who also scored in that February 2011 game — restored the cushy lead after the Bolts gambled and pulled their goaltender with more than six minutes left in regulation. The Lightning used an empty net and two straight penalties against Danny DeKeyser to play 6-on-4 in the final five minutes.
Anthony Mantha, Vladislav Namestnikov and Luke Glendening each picked up two assists.
The Wings lost 2-1 Saturday at Tampa, but on the whole played well against one of the best teams in the NHL.
“I thought we were pretty good defensively, and that’s what we have to be to give ourselves a chance,” Blashill said. “We created enough chances to score goals and we did. I was happy with our game — between the second game in Florida and these two games, I was happy with our game.”
It was a good first period from the Wings, who gave up two goals in the first 10 minutes Saturday. On Sunday, they limited the Lightning to one shot on net during a penalty to Filip Hronek, and converted on a man advantage when Filip Zadina drew a slashing call on Luke Schenn. Hronek sent the puck to Adam Erne, who passed it to Larkin. Larkin’s shot from the top of the left circle slipped beneath Christopher Gibson’s right arm, at 19:47. That was Erne’s second point in consecutive games against his former team.
“That was a big kill, lot of blocked shots,” Rasmussen said. “It was good to get the lead.”
Greiss came up with a huge save near the midpoint of the second period. The Lightning were on an odd man rush with only defenseman Troy Stecher able to take out a player. Stamkos got the puck on a give-and-go and fired a slap shot from the left flank. Greiss used the top of his stick to deny the scoring chance. “There was a little luck here and there,” Greiss said. “It hits the shaft and goes out and then we go down the other way and it goes in. If it had been 1-1, it’s a totally different game.”
This weekend was as good as Greiss has played after he posted a 3.63 goals-against average and .883 save percentage in 15 games in February and March. “He was really sharp,” Blashill said. “He did a great job fighting through traffic. From start to finish, it was maybe his best game in a long time, maybe one of the best of the year.”
Robby Fabbri was unavailable because of an undisclosed injury, thinning a lineup up front that already was without Bobby Ryan and Sam Gagner. The Wings went with an 11 forward, seven defenseman formation, giving more minutes to Larkin, Mantha and Zadina. Defenseman Christian Djoos re-entered the lineup and earned his seventh assist when he set up Rasmussen’s goal. Forward Evgeny Svechnikov was left on the taxi squad.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.