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Disappointing Home Opener for the Lightning

Alex Walworth | The Scrum Sports

After opening on the road for their first three games, the Tampa Bay Lightning were finally playing in front of the Amalie faithful. Hosting the Philadelphia Flyers coached by John Tortorella, the Bolts were home. Back in Hockey Paradise. Would the home cooking be a recipe for a Lightning win? Or would it be a disappointing home opener? Especially coming on the heel of the uninspiring loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday. 

A couple of story lines to watch here. Sure, it’s the season home opener for the Lightning and it’s their 30th season in the NHL. The only other coach not named Jon Cooper to win a Stanley Cup for the franchise is in the house. Tortorella is behind the Flyers bench in a return to Tampa. Defenseman Nick Perbix is making his NHL debut and Ian Cole is making his Lightning debut. The excitement and anticipation is palpable.

First Course of Home Cooking

The opening period started tentatively for both teams. Brayden Point created a break away chance but was stopped Flyers goalie Carter Hart. After the Point break away, the Lightning maintained puck possession for the next five minutes. Creating a couple of chances but not lighting the lamp. Neither team seemed on the brink of scoring. At about the halfway mark of the first, the Lightning were leading in shots 8 to 2. Then the real shots came in as a fight broke out. Pat Maroon and Nick Deslauriers dropped the mitts and fought to a draw.  

Couple minutes after the fight, Ian Cole was whistled for a hooking penalty.  The Flyers power play had a lot of zone time but not any good scoring chances. Still a scoreless game. as the period unfolded, it was apparent the only cooking being done was some slow cooking. On the period went with both teams trying to out-tentative the other. After the first period, both goalies were perfect in the 0-0 game. 

Don’t Fill Up on the Second Course

In the first minute of the second period, Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny was called for a high stick. Twenty five seconds into their first power play, the Lightning made the Flyers pay. Steven Stamkos blasted a shot past Hart for the first goal of the game. The beauty of this particular goal was the tic-tac-goal passing beginning with Nikita Kucherov to Vlad Namestnikov who blindly slides a backhanded pass to Stamkos. Hart never stood a chance to stop that and the Lightning went up 

Almost immediately after the Stamkos goal a fight ensued. This time the combatants were Corey Perry for Tampa and Justin Braun for Philadelphia.  Every player on the ice partnered up with an opposing player. During the scuffle, the Flyers Zach MacEwen was also called for a roughing penalty. This put the Lightning back on the power play. If once is nice, twice is better. Stamkos scored his second power play goal of the game and his sixth of the season. 

Kucherov flung a pass through a forest of Philadelphia legs and sticks finding the tape of Stamkos who fired a bullet of a shot past Hart for his and the game’s second goal.  Just when the Lightning were really taking control, the pesky Flyers fought back like the unbeaten team they were. Scott Laughton put in a juicy rebound in past Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it a 2-1 game. Through the rest of the second period the Lightning were buzzing in the Flyers zone. They peppered Hart with 17 shots that period and he was strong throughout the frame.  So, the game stood at 2-1 Lightning.

The Main Course in Disappointing Home Opener

On to the final regulation period. Right off the bat, in the first few seconds of the third period, Stamkos was called for a penalty. On the ensuing power play, the Flyers were dominating the puck in the Lightning zone.  Kevin Hayes blasted a shot that was deflected by Jamesvan Riemsdyk. Brand new game as we’re all tied up at two. The momentum shifted to the Philadelphia side. Every time the Lightning mustered up a decent shot, Hart fought them off. 

The Flyers were now playing like a certified unbeaten team. They just won a game 3-2 over Vancouver after falling behind 2-0. Not a trend the Lightning want to see. Past the halfway point of the period and overtime thoughts begin to creep in. With less than eight minutes left in the game, two veteran Tampa defensemen, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak both misplayed the puck in the low slot. Two giveaways in such a tight game in the waning minutes of regulation. This one came back to bit the Lightning. Noah Cates was the recipient of that gift and he didn’t waste the opportunity. He snapped a shot past Vasilevskiy to put the Flyers up 3-2. It’s where the game ended.

Three Stars

  1.  Carter Hart – 36 Saves, only allowed two power play goals
  2. Steven Stamkos – Two power play goals, six for the year
  3. Noah Cates – Game winning goal, blocked 3 shots

What’s Next

The Battle of Florida. The Lightning head to Sunrise to meet the Panthers Friday at 7:30 pm.

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