Get all of Michael Blinn’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
The best things come to those who wait, and in Alex Killorn’s case, he took it down to the wire for his Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
Killorn’s goal broke a scoreless tie with 1:43 remaining in Game 5 to lift the Lightning to their fourth win of their first round series with the Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa Bay advances to the second round, awaiting the winner of the Florida Panthers–New York Islanders series, while Detroit is heading home after a short stay in its 25th consecutive playoff appearance.
Here are three thoughts on the series clincher:
More traffic than rush hour
Early in the first period, a pair of back-to-back penalties put the Red Wings on an extended power play that included 1:14 of 5-on-3 advantage. When Tampa Bay returned to even strength 3:46 later, Detroit had only managed to get two shots through defenders Matt Carle, Victor Hedman and Brian Boyle on to goalie Ben Bishop.
It became evident from that point that if Detroit was going to take a shot, it had better find a way to get it through the thicket of legs, arms and sticks that were routinely in the shooting lanes. The pucks Bishop did see were often from low-danger angles with little else in his line of sight.
Even when the Red Wings appeared to have wide-open looks, they were often anything but. Darren Helm’s second-period rush down the sideboards was foiled by Bolts blue liner Andreas Sustr who got his stick on Helm’s and negated the chance.
Bishop is righteous
When Detroit finally put its blazing speed to use, Bishop shut things down, fast. He stoned Riley Sheahan and Helm on second-period breakaways, and aggressively challenged Justin Abdelkader’s big slap shot from the top of the circle early in the third period.
While it’s easy to say that a 6' 7" goalie stood tall, the Vezina Trophy candidate was really at his best in the third period, stopping 11 of the 34 shots he saw to complete his fourth career playoff shutout.
It isn't going to be easy for the Lightning to survive the next round without top forward Steven Stamkos (blood clots) and defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured leg), but Bishop posting a 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in this series certainly bodes well.
Where were the kids?
The Red Wings’ fortunes hinged on their young guns coming alive. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, coming off subpar regular-seasons, had the chance to step up here. Instead, they, along with wunderkind rookie Dylan Larkin, combined for just two goals and five points in the five-game series.
The trio was flummoxed in Game 5, with Larkin turned away by Bishop on a breakaway in the second period and Tatar visibly showing his frustration after Carle deflected his shot into the protective netting, half-swinging his stick at the boards early in the third. Nyquist, for his efforts, finished the evening with a shot and a hit in 15:51 of ice time.
With this game potentially being forward Pavel Datsyuk’s NHL finale and captain Henrik Zetterberg not getting any younger, the heir-apparents in Detroit are now the future. They needed to be more productive in this series, and though they came up short, they can chalk it up as valuable experience. Next season will surely bring a stiffer test.