There was a large group of Red Wings fans among the sellout crowd of 20,849 for the matchup of division leaders.
"That might have been the biggest I've ever seen in all the years I've been here," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "On the road we've had some unbelievable crowds, but tonight, that was a good crowd."
"This is the standard in the league. This is the best all-around team," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said of the Red Wings. "We've got a ways to go to get to that level. We have two months to get there."
The Lightning have missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
"We've got to learn from this," Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "Our standards have to be even higher."
It was the first time that new Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman faced his old team. He played 22 seasons before spending five more as a vice president with Detroit.
"We're proud of him and cheering for him every night except when he plays us," Babcock said.
After wasting a two-goal lead, the Red Wings rebounded on second-period goals by Kronwall (16:34), on the power play, and Abdelkader (18:00) for a 4-2 advantage.
Datsyuk extended the lead to 5-2 on his second goal of the game, at 11:49 of the third. An octopus -- a tradition at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- was thrown onto the ice after the goal.
Helm added a breakaway goal with 1:50 remaining.
Hedman got the Lightning within 2-1 on his first goal in 32 games at 11:51 of the second. Downie tied it with 5:22 to go in the period.
Cleary put the Red Wings up 1-0 on a deflection of Nicklas Lidstrom's shot during a power play 6:40 into the first. Detroit is 24-2-4 when scoring the game's first goal.
Lidstrom had two assists, giving him four in his last 12 games.
Datsyuk made it 2-0 with 5:03 left in the first. The center has eight goals and 16 points in his last 13 games.
Howard stopped all six shots he faced, including an in-close backhander by Downie, during a 4-minute Tampa Bay power play midway through the first.
Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis had an assist. He has no goals and three assists in 15 games against Detroit.
Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, one of Yzerman's front-office mentors, and Chicago senior adviser Scotty Bowman, who was Yzerman's coach when Detroit won three Stanley Cups, were at the game. ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also was in attendance. ... Detroit D Brad Stuart returned after missing 15 games due to a broken jaw. ... Tampa Bay C Nate Thompson played after sitting out three games with concussion-like symptoms. ... It was just third time in the last eight years that Detroit played the Lightning in Tampa.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Tampa Bay Times Forum Location: Tampa, Florida
Referees: Steve Kozari, Dan O'Rourke Linesmen: Brian Mach, Dan Schachte
Attendance: 20,849 (105.5% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Daniel Cleary (18)
(Power Play) Assists: Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk (15)
Assists: Daniel Cleary, Niklas Kronwall
Victor Hedman (3)
Assist: Simon Gagne
Steve Downie (8)
Assists: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis
Niklas Kronwall (10)
(Power Play) Assists: Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom
Justin Abdelkader (4)
Assists: Tomas Holmstrom, Jakub Kindl
Pavel Datsyuk (16)
Assists: Jiri Hudler, Daniel Cleary