DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.
But the result remained the same, another Tampa Bay victory over the Red Wings, who lost for the eight straight time to their Atlantic Division rivals. This time it was 3-2 Lightning.
"This is a typical Tampa-Detroit game," coach Jon Cooper said. "Not much room out there. I thought there were times they had us on our heels. We weren't on top of them like we should. But I like our determination in the third."
You can argue Detroit deserved better Monday, having outplayed the Lightning for a good part of 5-on-5. Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead thanks to a short-handed breakaway by noted Red Wings' killer Tyler Johnson. And there was a power-play goal by Nikita Kucherov, who became just the fourth player in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of the first six games (seven total). Kucherov also scored the winner, a one-handed poke of a loose puck early in the third period.
"They're a good team, play really tight," Kucherov said. "You have to grind this out and play the right way. Just wait for mistakes and when they happen, take advantage."
But the Red Wings, who were also off to a 4-1 start, gave Tampa Bay (5-1-0) everything it could handle, including erasing a two-goal deficit. Had it not been for another stellar night by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, Monday could have turned out a lot differently.
Former Lightning defenseman Luke Witkowski set the tone early, drilling rookie Mikhail Sergachev to the ice and then drawing a penalty. But Vasilevskiy held Detroit at bay in an early flurry, including a short-handed stop on Henrik Zetterberg.
Vasilevskiy was finally beaten on a Justin Abdelkader penalty shot, awarded after a Lightning coach's challenge for goaltender interference negated a Darren Helm score. Veteran defenseman Mike Green pounced on a rebound later in the second to tie thescore.
"We re-focused between periods," Stamkos said. "We just had to give ourselves a chance, and we did."
Kucherov's second goal, which came early in the third, was the result of him putting himself in the right spot in front in a scramble. That work ethic has been a penchant on Kucherov's run, seven goals in six games.
"When you're hot, you're hot," Stamkos said. "Special player. It's been fun to watch."
After Kucherov's goal, the Red Wings had several quality looks to tie it. The best might have been a Nick Jensen shot off the rush from point blank range, Vasilevskiy steering it aside.
"He's our starter for a reason," Cooper said. "If you want to win in this league, you have to check and you need your goaltender to bail you out on occasions. And the times we haven't been checking, Vasy has bailed us out."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Johnson 3, 9:15 (sh). 2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 6 (Hedman, Stamkos), 10:56 (pp).
Second Period—3, Detroit, Abdelkader 2, 2:30. 4, Detroit, Green 1 (Abdelkader, Tatar), 16:02.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 7 (Namestnikov, Stamkos), 1:47.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-11-7—26. Detroit 10-12-9—31.
Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 5; Detroit 0 of 6.
Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 5-1-0 (31 shots-29 saves). Detroit, Howard 3-1-0 (26-23).
A—19,515 (20,000). T—2:43. Referees—Tom Chmielewski, Dean Morton. Linesmen—David Brisebois, Greg Devorski.