Red Wings receive early holiday gift from Lightning, end six-game skid

Detroit News

Detroit − The Red Wings received a bit of an early holiday gift Wednesday from Tampa Bay.

Elmer Soderblom broke a tie early in the third period with a gift-wrapped goal, then Dylan Larkin scored on a bad angle on Lightning goalie Brian Elliott, as the Wings ended a six-game winless streak with a 7-4 victory.

Tampa cut the lead to 5-4 on Nikita Kucherov’s 13th goal, at 16 minutes 13 seconds, sneaking a shot past Wings goaltender Ville Husso.

But David Perron clinched it with his 11th goal, an empty netter, at 17:27, and Michael Rasmussen added further insurance with another empty netter, Rasmussen’s second goal of the game, sending the Wings to a needed victory.

On Soderblom’s tie-breaking goal, Elliott attempted to backhand the puck from behind the net but passed it directly to Joe Veleno near the corner. Veleno quickly found Soderblom alone in front, and Soderblom easily tapped in his fourth goal at 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

Larkin then snapped a shot from a sharp angle that somehow eluded Elliott, Larkin’s second of the night and 12th of the season at 9:46, making it 5-3.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 7, Lightning 4

Olli Maatta, added the other Wings (14-11-7) goal, while goaltender Ville Husso stopped 34 shots.

Brayden Point, Alex Killorn and Ross Colton scored the Lightning (20-11-1) goals.

It was the second consecutive win this season for Wings coach Derek Lalonde against his old team (which now has former Wings coach Jeff Blashill as an assistant on its staff).

The Lightning were coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss Tuesday in Toronto, leading to Lalonde expecting an angry and determined Tampa team after Wednesday’s morning skate.

“I’m sure they’ll have their best,” Lalonde said. “Being in that room, they lost last night and they take a lot of pride in bouncing back. That’s why they’ve a special team for so long. It’ll be a good test for us.”

Having won 13 of their last 16 games entering Wednesday’s game, Tampa had erased a sluggish start and are back near the top of the NHL standings.

The core of the Lightning roster that won two consecutive Stanley Cups and missed a chance for a third last season against Colorado, remains mainly the same from when Lalonde was there for four years. Lalonde watched a championship mindset grow over the years.

“When you are used to winning like they are, the success they have, it’s not an accident,” Lalonde said. “It takes a mindset of success that truly comes from the room and that’s who they are, and that’s why they don’t have sustained losing streaks. (It’s) why they find themselves where they are again toward the top of the standings and for me it was a really good experience being around that.

“They’ve matured as a team, where there’s less of those (turning on and off within the game). Probably our 62-win team (in Tampa) might have been a little like that and they had to learn the hard way (four-game first-round series loss). That’s (now) a mature, elite team where you don’t see big ups or down in the game.”

The Wings came into the game winless in those six games, but Lalonde felt as if the confidence hadn’t waned within the locker room.

“The group has done a good job judging themselves on performance,” Lalonde said. “The morale seems pretty high and it is because in that 0-4-2 stretch, we’ve played some good hockey. Not enough, not consistent enough in all areas of our game to be successful, but because our play has been good and solid at times, that’s why morale has been up.

“It hasn’t been a whole lot different in our 0-4-2 stretch from some of our good stretches. We just want to build off a good point the other night (overtime loss in Washington) against a real good team and it’s about us and team performance.”

The Wings continue to lag behind Atlantic Division powerhouses Boston, Toronto and Tampa in the Atlantic Division standings, but Lalonde doesn’t spend much time focusing on that.

“I’m serious, I don’t look at the standings,” Lalonde said. “Part of that is that reason (the three teams’ dominance), (but) it’s not disheartening, it’s reality. We got those victories and top 10 percentage points in the league (early in the season), but it’s still a reality of our division (strength) but that’s fine. That’s what we have to get to.

“Could we be in another division or conference and be lying to ourselves a bit? Maybe. But you have to get there, so why not against the best?”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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