DETROIT — Throughout the existence of the Lightning franchise, Tampa Bay rarely stood a fighter’s chance at Joe Louis Arena.
But the Lightning knocked that history to the mat on Saturday, knocking off Detroit 3-2 in overtime for just the second ever victory in Detroit.
Tampa Bay had been 1-13-1 all-time at Joe Louis Arena, with the only previous win coming more than 19 years ago on Jan. 12, 1994. Saturday was just the third time the Lightning earned a point in Detroit.
“We sit there as a staff and look that the organization has not won here very often,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But moving forward, they are a division opponent now so we are going to be playing here a lot more than we have in the past, so we have to win games here if we have any chance of making the playoffs and tonight was a good start for us.’’
Tampa Bay’s penalty kill unit thwarted off four Detroit power plays in the second period and Teddy Purcell ensured the victory, notching the winner with 1:09 left in overtime, taking a pass out of the corner from Richard Panik and wristing a shot past Jimmy Howard for his first goal since Oct. 15 to end a 10-game goalless drought.
“Any time you can play and beat the top teams in the league, that’s what it takes to be a good team,’’ Purcell said.
Ryan Malone also scored his first goal in 11 games while Steven Stamkos scored for the sixth consecutive game to move into a tie for the league lead with 14 goals. Ben Bishop made 25 saves to improve to 11-2 on the season, allowing two or fewer goals for the 11th time in his 13 starts.
“We looked like a hockey team tonight,’’ said captain Marty St. Louis, who saw plenty of setbacks in Joe Louis Arena through the years. “You play these teams in their building and you really get a chance to gauge yourself, and we looked like a team tonight.’’
The Lightning are now two points ahead of Detroit in the Atlantic Division, having won seven of the past eight games to move to the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 12-4 record.
For most of Saturday, Tampa Bay looked the part.
After overcoming an early Henrik Zetterberg goal at 3:51, the Lightning started to assert themselves and take the play into the Detroit zone and ended up tied after the first period on Malone’s second goal of the season at 10:11.
But in the second period, the Lightning penalty killers were put to the test as Tampa Bay took four consecutive penalties. After the Lightning killed off an Andrej Sustr hooking call at 5:09, Tampa Bay took a too many men on the ice penalty. Nate Thompson followed that with a four-minute high sticking penalty, which gave Detroit 36 seconds of a 5-on-3, which resulted in a total power play time of 6:48 for the Red Wings that Tampa Bay had to kill off.
Four seconds after surviving that sequence, Stamkos put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 with a wrist shot off a Victor Hedman feed.
“That was the turning point of the game,’’ Stamkos said. “You look at a team like that with that skill, probably more times than not they are going to score on a 5-on-3, and maybe another one on the extended power play. So we knew to be in that game we had to kill that off. Then a big momentum swing to get a goal right when it expires.’’
Though Tampa Bay looked to lock it down in the third period limiting Detroit to just three shots on goal 15 minutes into the third. But Zetterberg scored his second of the game, collecting a hard around dump in by Danny DeKeyser and was open for a slot shot at the right circle to tie the game with 4:12 left to send the game to overtime.
In the overtime, however, the Lightning had all four shots on goal and found the winner in a building they rarely happen.
“Our team can play with the big boys, and that was a really good hockey game but I thought, when that little adversity hit (in the second period), the boys kill it off,’’ Cooper said. “For us to come out on top, and they have some big time players, but every time they pushed on us, we pushed back.
“So I was really happy with our effort.’’