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Red Wings aim to keep shutdown formula on Tampa's top line

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s offensive stars couldn’t figure out the Detroit Red Wings’ defense or goaltender Petr Mrazek in Game 3.

In that contest, the Lightning fired just 16 shots on goal and saw their first line of Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov nullified by a shutdown line of Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan.

Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn have combined for 15 points through the first three games. Johnson has two goals and four assists in that stretch. In Game 3, they didn't fire any shots on goal. 

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For Game 4 on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, the Lightning will try to find more balanced scoring to take a 3-1 series lead.

"We can't be a one-line team," forward Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's a lot to ask three guys to do in a series."

According to the Times, Killorn said the Lightning’s top line was simply not ready to play Detroit’s shut down unit.  

"As far as my philosophy, it's, 'Let's go boys, man up,' " Tampa coach Jon Cooper said. "Here's who you're playing against. Be better than them.' "

It’s unclear how much a role Mrazek played in shutting down the Lightning since he wasn’t tested much, but he was likely a better option for the team over veteran Jimmy Howard, who had started the prior two games – both Red Wings losses. In eight career playoff games, Mrazek has posted three shutouts. In two games, Howard had a 3.59 goal-against average and .906 save percentage.

“He went through a stretch where he wasn’t playing good enough. I think it’s positive he’s had the opportunity to get away and just get back work on his game. He’s worked really hard with Jimmy Bedard to work on some things,“ coach Jeff Blashill said according to the Detroit Free Press. “I think the time away has been good. I think the work he’s put in has been great.”

This series has been arguably the most physically vicious of the playoffs. Near the end of Game 2, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader repeatedly punched Tampa’s Mike Blunden in a scrum, which left Blunden’s face bloody. In Game 3, Boyle tried to fight Abdelkader, who wouldn’t drop his gloves in order to not receive a match penalty because Abdelkader had tape on his hands. After the play was broken up, Boyle taunted Abdelkader with a ‘chicken dance’ motion.

"We don’t like each other," Lightning forward Cedric Paquette said according to ESPN.com. “We don't have goons; we don't fight as much as other teams in the league. That's playoffs. We don't like each other. That's playoff hockey.

The Red Wings haven’t gotten much offensively from their stars either. Regular season leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg has just one goal in three games. Pavel Datsyuk has been held pointless. If they keep the same defensive performance and see their top players provide more offense, they’ll have a decent shot at tying the series Tuesday. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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