DETROIT -- In the Red Wings’ first view of an Eastern Conference foe this season, they couldn’t have been too impressed.
Beyond a short spark in the second, Tampa Bay’s offense — including the league’s top scorer in Vincent Lecavalier — was a complete power outage.
The Lightning mustered just one shot on net in the first period and stared at the Red Wings buzzing in their zone for the rest of the night. There was no stopping Detroit, who won 4-2 to reassert itself atop the league with 36 points. Tampa Bay dropped its sixth straight.
“We knew we were going to have a bit of a tiger by the tail tonight here,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We thought getting started would be really important for us, and I thought we did a good job.
Jiri Hudler opened the scoring for the Red Wings 3:24 into the first period. Chris Chelios nailed Hudler with a sharp pass to the right of Lightning netminder Marc Denis, who had no chance to get over and stop Hudler’s deflection.
Tampa (10-13-2) couldn’t touch the puck in the first period, but in the second defenseman Doug Janik did — but he sat on it too long, and was whistled off for delay of game. On the ensuing power play, Nicklas Lidstrom’s point shot bounced off Thomas Holmstrom in front and rolled to Pavel Datsyuk staring at an open net. Datsyuk didn’t miss for his seventh goal in eight games, doubling Detroit’s lead.
In his first game back after missing three games with a shoulder injury, Tomas Kopecky extended Detroit’s lead to three at 7:39 of the second. Andreas Lilja sent a perfect feed to Kopecky, who streaked down the right wing, faked Denis with a shoulder-hunch, and struck the top corner on the backhand.
“The shoulder’s still got a little way to go, but I’ve got to grind it out,” Kopecky said. “Right now, we’re a couple of guys short, and we need everybody to step up.”
After Tampa Bay had cut Detroit’s lead to 3-1 after the second period, Dan Cleary calmed the Joe Louis Arena fans two minutes into the third. Disarray in the Tampa zone led to a hard Brett Lebda point shot, and Cleary cashed in the long rebound for the 4-1 advantage.
“I just was hoping it would pop out on that side, and I kind of just one-touched it into the net,” Cleary said. “Nothing fancy. Not a Pavel (Datsyuk) goal.”
Outshot by the Wings, 17-1, in the first period, Lightning coach John Tortorella mixed up his lines in the second. The trio of Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier — an old favorite from the Lightning’s Stanley Cup championship in 2004 — got Tampa Bay on the board. After
Detroit lost the puck behind the net, St. Louis connected to Richards for a snapshot that beat goalie Chris Osgood high on the glove side.
For the game, the Wings (17-6-2) out-shot Tampa, 39-23.
The Lightning started to pour it on late in the second, drawing a late power play. Osgood snared a Lecavalier point shot through traffic with 31 seconds left, and made another save in tight on the following shift to hold Detroit’s 3-1 lead going into the third period. Osgood is now
16-0 in his career against the Lightning.
With just three minutes left in the game, Mathieu Darche deflected Shane O’Briens point shot past Osgood to settle the 4-2 score. Tampa Bay hasn’t won in Detroit since January 1994.
Wings forwards Kirk Maltby (shoulder), Matt Ellis (headaches) and Kris Draper (sprained knee) missed the game with injury, so Mark Hartigan was called up from Grand Rapids for his first start of the season. Kopecky’s return helped fill the other roster void.