In a first-round matchup that pitted an Original Six powerhouse against a younger, 1992 expansion team, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the old-guard Detroit Red Wings in seven games. The dramatic series sent the Lightning on to the Eastern Conference semifinals, while Detroit was sent packing. Despite sending 31 shots on goal, the Red Wings couldn’t put anything past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop in the crucial game seven.
The Tampa Bay victory was made all the more dramatic by the fact that the Red Wings led the series three games to two going into game six, but Tampa Bay turned the momentum around with an impressive 5-2 victory. That also put Tampa Bay back on home ice for game seven, a key factor since the team had the best record of any team in the league during the regular season.
For most of game seven, the game looked to be going Detroit’s way, although the match was scoreless through two periods. That changed about four minutes into the third period, when Brayden Coburn – acquired by Tampa Bay midway through the season – sent a one-timer into the back of the net. The game continued to be tight throughout the third period, leading Detroit to pull its goalie for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, that strategy did not pan out as the Red Wings not only failed to score, but Anton Stralman added an empty-net insurance goal for the Lightning with just 1:18 remaining.
For an opening round series, the Lightning-Red Wings matchup was as dramatic as they come, with the teams trading games evenly through game six; game seven marked the first time in the series either team managed to win two games in a row. And the seventh game easily could have gone the other way, with Detroit significantly outshooting Tampa Bay and putting in a solid defensive effort. However, in the end, it was the flawless performance of 28-year-old Ben Bishop that made the difference and propelled the Lightning further into the post-season.
While Detroit hits the golf course, the Lightning move on to face the Montreal Canadiens, another storied franchise, and one that defeated the Ottawa Senators four games to two in its opening round series. The matchup promises to be just as exciting and hard-fought as the Tampa Bay-Detroit matchup.