The Tampa Bay Lightning won their first game of the season 5-2 over the Carolina Hurricanes.
For the first time in a while, there's not a lot for me to complain about. This was a well played game by the Lightning. The had a good attitude, good energy, and a consistently sustained effort for the full 60 minutes. About all I've got are Hedman's ice time (over 26 minutes - again) and some of the penalties that were taken. But all in all, this was a well executed and played game.
The highlight - at least for me - was Ryan Malone's open net hat trick goal. Completely accidental on his part, I'm sure. He was just trying to clear the puck, and you always want to throw what you can at an open net because you just never know. And it went in. I'm sure he was the most surprised guy on the ice about it.
Antero Niittymaki had his first start of the season, and as a member of the Lightning. His crazy record against teams in the Southeast Division gets added to with this win. Frankly, I think he should start all of the games against Southeast teams, but that might get old and predictable for a while.
Niitymaki was a solid force in net against the Hurricanes. He made some spectacular saves, because he had to face some spectacular shots. But he was also very calm, collected, and dependable. Mike Smith was held out as a precautionary measure due to his run-in with Malone in the Devil's game. Smith did suit up and was on the bench, however.
The Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line dominated for much of the game. St. Louis led the Lightning in shots on goal with seven, Stamkos had four, and five. That line accounted for 16 of the 39 shots on goal, five points, six hits, and was a total of a +9 (each player was a +3).
The other big line for the night was the Zenon Konopka-Todd Fedoruk-Steve Downie line. Statistically, they didn't do a lot. But they drew penalties and created some great chances. You might not expect them to be as good as they are, considering the guys involved, but they were very comparable to the Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis line in this game.
Which isn't to say that the other lines and defensemen didn't contribute, because they certainly did. Vincent Lecavalier dominated in the faceoff circle, as did Stamkos. The defense played in big part in the scoring with Paul Ranger scoring a goal plus getting an assist, Mattias Ohlund with two assists, and there was a Downie tip-in goal on an Andrej Meszaros shot.
This was a great team effort. If the Lightning can play like this more often, then they'll have a very good chance at making playoffs this season. Let's hope this wasn't just a flash in the pan, but the beginning of a good season.