Sportsbook favorites Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jonathan Drouin’s third assist set up Ondrej Palat for the game-winning goal with 2:59 left in the third period, giving the Lightning a 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night as well as a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Palat was perfectly positioned to make the most of Drouin’s pass. “I was looking for a stick,” Drouin said. Drouin had a key role in Nikita Kucherov scoring power-play goals in the 1st and 2nd periods to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead late in the second. Detroit’s Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist tied the game late in the 2nd period.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions scored thrice on the power play on five chances, and prevented Detroit from scoring on the man advantage on four opportunities. Brian Boyle won a faceoff, sent the puck back to Victor Hedman and skated toward the front of the net. Hedman passed the puck back to where he was standing to Drouin, who pushed the puck through the left circle to Tyler Johnson, whose pass back to the right dot set up Kucherov for a one-timer nine seconds into the power play. The Lightning took advantage of another power play when Jonathan Ericsson didn’t clear the puck, keeping it in his team’s end; it ended up in the back of the net on Kucherov’s shot from the slot off a pass from Drouin.
This comes as a sort of redemption for Drouin, whose future with the team seemed bleak, after he failed to report to his second demotion to the minors and was suspended in January until March. However, GM Steve Yzerman called him up in time for the last two games of the regular season. Drouin didn’t disappoint Yzerman, or the Lightning’s hockey betting fans for that matter. “I’m not really thinking about what happened before,” he said. “I’m past that point, I’m just playing hockey. Definitely feels really good. I don’t think it’s surreal. I’m happy to be back here helping the team.” Drouin was the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 and had decent rookie year. “The one thing that gets missed in all of this, we never ever gave up on Jonathan,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s a young kid and he’s finding his way in pro hockey. He’s as gifted as I’ve seen.”
This is Detroit’s 25th consecutive playoff appearance, but it may be a short one if they don’t get their act together. “Either you win or you go home and the season’s over,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We obviously lost the game on special teams,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill added. “Both the power play and the penalty kill.” The Red Wings are underdogs with NHL playoffs odds to win the series at +145.