DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings have not found the answer to slowing down Tyler Johnson in the playoffs over the last two seasons and are running out of time as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday for Game 3 of their first-round series.
Johnson scored six times in last year’s seven-game battle and has a pair of goals to go with four assists in two victories to open the postseason in 2016.
Lightning center Brian Boyle told reporters after Friday’s 5-2 victory in Game 2 that Johnson “has found another gear. He’s flying out there.”
Johnson, along with linemates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, have combined for 15 points in the first two games and Detroit forward Dylan Larkin told reporters: “They’re opportunistic. … They get a lot of free space and you have to back check hard and play the body a little more. We’re not making it hard enough on them.”
The Red Wings are also 1-for-10 on the power play and continue to give up too many Grade A chances at even strength.
"We’re going to make some mistakes, that’s the reality of life," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told reporters. "But we’ve had opportunities in the last two games to win the hockey game and we didn’t win it.”
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About the Lightning:
Johnson’s four points Friday tied a single-game franchise record in the playoffs set by Vincent Lecavalier in 2011, and Ryan Callahan told reporters: “He likes this time of year and he’s showing it.”
The defense pairing of Braydon Coburn and Nikita Nesterov have raised their games, combining for three assists and a plus-5 rating in front of goaltender Ben Bishop (64 saves, 68 shots). Versatile forward J.T. Brown suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2 and is out indefinitely.
About the Red Wings:
Larkin responded after a quiet Game 1 with his first playoff goal and three hits Friday while veterans Pavel Datsyuk (eight shots) and captain Henrik Zetterberg (three) are looking for their first point. The Red Wings’ defense has recorded six of their 11 points in the first two games, led by Mike Green with a goal and an assist. Goalie Jimmy Howard has allowed seven goals on 64 shots and Blashill told reporters any decisions on lineup changes would be decided Sunday.
1. Detroit F Gustav Nyquist registered eight shots on goal in the first two games, but has tallied once in his last 19 contests overall.
2. Kucherov boasts 14 goals – three this season -- and 28 points in 30 career playoff games.
3. The Lightning won two road playoff games against the Red Wings last year, but lost both contests in Detroit during the 2015-16 regular season.