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DETROIT (AP) — Jonathan Drouin rewarded the faith and patience of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Drouin's third assist set up Ondrej Palat for the game-winning goal with 2:59 left in the third period, lifting the Lightning to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night and a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Not long ago, Drouin's future with the franchise was as clear as mud.
"I'm not really thinking about what happened before," he said. "I'm past that point, I'm just playing hockey. Definitely feels really good. I don't think it's surreal. I'm happy to be back here helping the team."
After a solid rookie season last year, Drouin failed to report to his second demotion to the minors and was suspended by the team in January until March. Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman gave his No. 3 overall pick in 2013 a second chance, calling him up to the NHL less than two weeks ago and he played in the last two games of the regular season.
"The one thing that gets missed in all of this, we never ever gave up on Jonathan," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "He's a young kid and he's finding his way in pro hockey."
If Detroit doesn't find a way to solve its lingering problems on the power play and now while killing penalties, its 25th straight postseason appearance will likely end very soon.
Game 5 is Thursday night at Tampa Bay.
"Either you win or you go home and the season's over," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Palat was in a perfect position — right in front of the net — to make the most of Drouin's slick centering pass.
"I was looking for a stick," Drouin said.
Drouin played a part in Nikita Kucherov scoring power-play goals in the first and second periods to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead late in the second. Detroit's Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist scored late in the second period to tie the game.
The Lightning struck first by scoring at 5:41 of the first on a power play and scored again midway through the second period with an extra skater, a rare sight earlier in the series.
And, it was a beautifully setup goal.
Brian Boyle won a faceoff, sending the puck back to Victor Hedman and skating toward the front of the net. Hedman carried the puck from left to right and passed it back to where he was standing to Drouin, who pushed the puck through the left circle to Tyler Johnson, whose diagonal pass back to the right dot perfectly set up Kucherov for a one-timer nine seconds into the power play.
Tampa Bay took advantage of another power play when Jonathan Ericsson failed to clear the puck, keeping the puck in his team's end and it ended up in the back of the net on Kucherov's shot from the slot off a centering pass from Drouin.
In a game filled with established stars, Drouin seemed to be the most dynamic player in Game 4.
"He's as gifted as I've seen," Cooper said.
The defending Eastern Conference champions scored three times on the power play on five chances. And, they prevented Detroit from scoring on the man advantage on four opportunities.
"We obviously lost the game on special teams," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "Both the power play and the penalty kill."
Over the first three games of the series, Tampa Bay was 1 of 14 on the power play and Detroit was 1 of 17 with at least one extra skater.
In even-strength situations, the Red Wings tied the game.
Helm stuffed a shot into the net from the right side off a pass from Luke Glendening with 5:07 left in the second.
On the game-tying goal, Nyquist went charging up the ice to get to a puck chipped ahead by Justin Abdelkader. His pressure led to the puck getting turned over to Riley Sheahan, who flipped it over sticks to set up Nyquist's score.
Detroit looked as if it would go ahead later when a pass went toward Henrik Zetterberg on the side of an open net, but former teammate Valtteri Filppula pushed the puck away.
"I got just enough of it," Filppula.
Pavel Datsyuk, who has said he will retire from the NHL after the playoffs and return to Russia, drew a penalty with 8:16 left in what might end up being his last game at Joe Louis Arena.
Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin hit the right post and the puck caromed just outside of the goal line and away from the net on a power play that included only one shot.
Ericsson was called for cross-checking with 4:42 to go, giving the Lighting a chance to go ahead with their third power-play goal of the game and they took full advantage to move a step closer toward eliminating Detroit in the first round for the second straight year.
Ben Bishop stopped 26 shots for the Lightning and Petr Mrazek made 30 saves for the Red Wings. Mrazek was pulled late in the game, giving the Red Wings an extra skater, but they still struggled to generate much offense.
NOTES: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game after getting a tour of District Detroit, which includes an arena the Red Wings plan to play in during the 2017-18 season. "It's awesome," Bettman said. "And, it's awesome what it will do for the city." ... Tampa Bay's Matt Taormina made his playoff debut, replacing Erik Condra, who made his postseason debut in Game 3, as the team suited one more defensemen and one fewer forward. ... Nyquist had scored only one goal in his previous 20 games.
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