The 2023-2024 season started off on a high note for the Tampa Bay Lightning with an exciting win over the Nashville Predators. But things went downhill from there. The Bolts took to the road- a place that was not so friendly for them last season. The first trip of this season did not look much better. After tough losses in Detroit and Ottawa, the Lightning did manage a point in Buffalo Tuesday night. They tied the game up in thrilling fashion with just 7 seconds remaining in regulation, only to stumble in overtime. But, tonight, the Bolts return home, hoping that the friendly confines of Amalie Arena can help turn their fortunes around as they face off against the Vancouver Canucks.
Return of the Captain
The Bolts got some welcome news today. Captain Steven Stamkos, who had missed the last two games, was on the ice for practice and warm-ups. And he made his presence known early on in this game. The Lightning got their second power play opportunity of the game right around the midway point of the opening frame. The power play seemed lackluster. Vancouver had better shorthanded opportunities! The Canucks were killing the clock and went to dump the puck the length of the ice. But Nick Paul intercepted and found his captain standing all alone in front of the net. Stamkos hammered it and netminder Thatcher Demko stopped him point blank. Nick Paul came over to finish what he had started. He found an opening and tipped the puck home to put his team up 1-0.
Nick Paul is inevitable pic.twitter.com/JF2LwfSKlq
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 19, 2023
Quick Strikes in the Second
The Bolts took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room at the first intermission. But that lead would not hold up in the second period. Brock Boeser tied it up for the Canucks just 14 seconds into the frame. Just like that, back to square one. But not for long. Tyler Myers took advantage of some Lightning defensive miscues to put Vancouver up 2-1 at the 1:02 mark. Two quick strikes and the Bolts found themselves trailing. And so it would continue for about the next fifteen minutes. The teams had their chances. Tanner Jeannot got into a nice little brawl with Mark Friedman. And then, with the period winding down, the Lightning decided it was time for a strike of their own.
Mikey Eyssimont skated down the ice and blasted a wicked wrister past Thatcher Demko with just over 4 minutes remaining in the period. Eyssimont’s first goal of the season. Connor Sheary notched an assist on the goal for his first point as a Bolt. Tie game once again.
— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) October 20, 2023
But, as the Canucks did at the start of the period, the Lightning would do at the end of the period.
A minute and nine seconds after the Eyssimont tally, Nikita Kucherov buried his 3rd of the season to put the Bolts up 3-2.
Once again, the Lightning would go to the dressing room with a one-goal lead.
Sweet Home Amalie?
The Lightning were very quick to give up their lead in the second period. Would they do the same in the third? Or would they hold on for the home crowd at Amalie? Tonight was a return to Amalie for the Bolts after their 3-game road trip. But it was also a return for defenseman Ian Cole (this time, wearing the opposing team’s jersey). And early in the third period, Cole did what he did so often for the Lightning last season- took an inopportune penalty for his team. Nikita Kucherov took a pass from Nick Paul and beat Thatcher Demko for his 2nd of the night and 4th of the season. The Lightning now had a two-goal cushion.
With about 2 minutes remaining in regulation, the Canucks pulled goaltender Thatcher Demko in favor of the extra attacker. It worked out well for them, as former Bolt JT Miller scored his second of the season to pull Vancouver within a goal with 1:49 remaining in regulation.
It was a frenzied final moment, but the Bolts hung on for a 4-3 final. Amalie Arena proved once again to be home sweet home for the boys in blue.
1- Nikita Kucherov- 2 goals
2- Nick Paul- 1 goal, 1 assist
3- Mike Eyssimont- 1st goal of the season
In a rematch of last year’s first round playoff match-up, the Toronto Maple Leafs will visit Amalie Arena Saturday night. Game time is 7pm.
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