For the first time in over a calendar year, the Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed fans to Amalie Arena as they took on the Nashville Predators Saturday night. A reduced crowd of around 3,800 watched as the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup banner was raised to the rafters. Following an unprecedented season that finished in a spectator free bubble, the reigning champions decided to wait to raise the banner until fans could attend the ceremony. Rick Peckham again hosted a tribute to last year’s championship team before they were immortalized by the banner being raised to the rafters.
Johnson and Joseph get things going early
It was a bit of a slow start for the Bolts after the emotions of the banner ceremony. However, Lightning still found a way to strike first in the opening period. While falling to the ice in front of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, Tyler Johnson converted an Erik Cernak cross ice pass to put the Lightning ahead 1-0. The goal was Johnson’s 6th of the season. It was also the first goal scored with a crowd reaction at Amalie Arena since last March.
Johnny coming through! 👊 pic.twitter.com/4a5EtsO59I
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 14, 2021
With 1:25 to go in the period. Cernak found himself involved in another Lightning scoring play. After an offensive zone face-off win, Cernak fed Mathieu Joseph who fired a shot from the right point. With Patrick Maroon setting up a screen in front of Rinne, Joseph’s shot found the top of the net and sent the Lightning into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Special teams steal show in second
Tampa Bay benefited from the game’s first power play early on in the second period when Eeli Tolvanen was sent to the box for slashing. After a pressure filled first minute for the Bolts power play, Alex Killorn tapped in a shot pass from Ondrej Palat to extend the Lightning lead to 3-0.
Nashville got on the board with a little under 8 minutes to go in the period. Andrei Vasilevskiy attempted a clearing pass to Blake Coleman. Coleman was unable to corral the pass and the puck ended up on the stick of Yakov Trenin. As a result of the turnover, Trenin cashed in on a clean look to trim the Lightning lead to 3-1.
After a tremendous Lightning penalty kill late in the period, Brayden Point did what Brayden Point does best. Celebrating his 25th birthday, Point brought the puck into the Nashville zone, skated cross ice between 3 Predators and fired in a no look goal from the top of the right circle. The score was Point’s 10th of the year, joining captain Steven Stamkos (12) and Ondrej Palat (11) in double digits.
Predators push back in third
Tampa Bay took a 4-1 lead into the game’s final period. It didn’t take long for Nashville to start cutting into their deficit. Alexandre Carrier picked up his first career goal and point when he converted on a 3 on 2 opportunity just 3:17 into the period. Less than 2 minutes later, the Predators inched 1 goal closer. With Tyler Johnson in the penalty box for a boarding call, Erik Haula tapped in a rebound on the Nashville power play to make it 4-3. What was appearing to be a Bolts runaway victory suddenly became a bit more interesting.
Momentum shifted back in the Lightning’s favor when Blake Coleman beat Rinne with a backhand goal at 10:02. With the score holding at 5-3, Nashville opted to pull Rinne for an extra attacker with 3 minutes to go. The win was sealed for the Bolts when Ryan McDonagh angled a perfect bank shot from his own zone into the empty net. Tampa Bay is now 19-5-2 on the season.
Normally, a game recap from The Scrum Sports will include our own 3 star selection. However, tonight was about the fans. For all who were in attendance tonight and all who watched at home. For all who have poured their hearts, souls, and hard earned dollars into supporting this world class franchise. The team delivered a Stanley Cup in the most unprecedented and challenging circumstances and tonight they got to thank you for your unwavering support. Therefore, we will as well. Stars 1-3 go to the Tampa Bay Lightning fans.
The Lightning and Predators face off again on Monday afternoon at 4:00PM.
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