Lightning head coach Guy Boucher has talked a lot about giving back to Tampa Bay's faithful fans and his team delivered, winning a see-saw battle over the Washington Capitals 6-3 Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"This was a pressure game because you are excited and want to please your fans. The whole idea is that they've been waiting so long. It's all about the fans and the players wanted to give it back to them. People bought into these players and the organization and it was our job to give it back to them today." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
"It was definitely a good game, right from the get-go. A little too much back-and-forth but I thought we played a very solid game. Everybody contributed and everybody played well defensively." - Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier.
Emotions might have been a little too high as play began and the Lightning quickly found themselves on the wrong end of power plays twice within the first three minutes. Newly acquired goaltender Anders Lindback kept the Capitals off the scoresheet, turning away all shots during those two shorthanded sequences. Lindback would go on to stop 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the first period and 27 of 30 for the game to pick up his first win as a member of the Lightning.
Eric Brewer got things started for the Bolts, scoring on assists from Matt Carle and Martin St. Louis at 6:24, with the team's first shot of the game.
Just over two minutes later, Washington tied the game for the first time at 8:25 when Joel Ward scored with helpers from Wojtek Wolski and Tom Poti.
The Lightning jumped right back in front less than a minute later when Vincent Lecavalier scored at 9:09 on the team's second shot of the game with an assist by Keith Aulie. The period ended with the Lightning leading 2-1.
Washington re-tied it early in the second when Ward scored again at 1:59, this time on assists from Jason Chimera and John Carlson.
The Lightning cashed in on a power play to regain the lead at 5:11 with Martin St. Louis scoring with help from Lecavalier and rookie forward Cory Conacher.
Late in the period, Washington tied the game for the third and final time when Wolski scored on assists from Mike Ribeiro and Roman Hamrlik on a 4-on-4 situation, ending the period tied 3-3.
The Bolts found themselves in a 5-on-3 power play early in the third, following a pair of tripping penalties. They made Washington pay when St. Lois scored his second goal of the game, this time with assists from Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell at 4:57.
The Bolts opened the lead to two goals when Conacher scored his first NHL goal at 13:24 with an assist from Purcell.
"It's awesome. I couldn't have done it without these guys. Obviously, the two points for the win is more important." - Cory Conacher.
They exclamation point came when Brewer scored another power play goal, with help from Purcell and Stamkos at 16:42. Overall, the Lightning power play converted on three of seven opportunities, while the penalty kill was successful three out of four times on the night.
The scoring is a pretty accurate reflection of hos the two teams played, as the Lightning definitely appeared to be the stronger team in the third period.
"Game shape and chemistry, the things we emphasized all week. You could see it in the other team and you could see it in our players. We wore them down in the third period. I really believe that was the difference. Credit to the players; when they were off, they trained. We didn't have to start from scratch." - Boucher
- This was the first of four meetings with division rival Washington. The only teams they will see more than the Capitals (and Winnipeg, which is also scheduled for four games) are the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, with whom the Bolts will cross paths five times before the regular season concludes.
- This is the first time the Lightning and Capitals have faced each other in a season opener.
- This game featured a matchup of the NHL's two most prolific scorers over the last two seasons in the Lightning's Steven Stamkos and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. Stamkos has scored 156 goals and Ovechkin has 120 since the start of the 2009-10 season.
- The Lightning are 12-6-2 all time in opening games with a 10-7-2-1 record in home openers.
- With two goals in tonight's game, Eric Brewer has doubled his total (one) from last season.
- With a goal and an assist, Lecavalier notched the 203rd multi-point game of his 999-game NHL career.
- Conacher (#89) and Benoit Pouliot (#67) are wearing numbers that no Lightning player had ever worn in a regular season game.
- Something for those who had concerns about the game's recovery in "non-traditional" markets: The Lightning announced this game as sold out on Friday morning, in spite of competing with a monster truck event at nearby Raymond James Stadium. As the kids say, "just sayin'".
- The Lightning honored John Sykes and the Sykes family as the 15th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Sykes, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Police Athletic League. This is the first time a family has been recognized as the community hero.
The Sykes family has been one of the major philanthropic leaders in the Tampa Bay community for many years, and has made an unwavering commitment to supporting local heroes. John Sykes has provided numerous educational opportunities for deserving youth and children in the area that are less fortunate. Nearly 20 years ago Sykes started a luncheon that would become a premier event honoring local heroes in Tampa Bay at the annual Our Heroes Luncheon. Thousands of local police officers attend the luncheon and eight students a year are awarded the Coy Sykes Scholarship at the event. The Sykes have donated approximately $750,000 to fund the education of more than 130 students through the program.
During local law enforcement times of tragedy, the Sykes family has always responded. After the deaths of fallen first responders, John Sykes made generous donations that allowed the Tampa Police Department to purchase Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. Sykes also donated money to TPD for a state-of-the-art fitness center to keep law enforcement officials in top condition for the daily obstacles they face.The Tampa Bay Lightning honored John Sykes and the Sykes family as the 15th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game against the Washington Capitals. Sykes, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Police Athletic League. This is the first time a family has been recognized as the community hero.