It felt good to be back in Amalie Arena for opening night festivities. The Tampa Bay Lightning was introduced, the 2014-15 Eastern Conference Champions banner was unveiled, Thunderbug was out and about with his drum, and we got to join the amazingly talented Sonya Bryson once again in singing the national anthem. The atmosphere was great throughout the night, the officiating was a bit questionable, some posts were hit, and some exciting moments happened. Chief among them was the 3-on-3 overtime.
Wow, was Amalie Arena rocking! Before the period, I and a buddy down the row from me were discussing who we thought we'd see represent the Lightning to start the overtime. Valterri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman took to the ice for the first shift (proving me and my friend's guestimates wrong; we both thought Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos would be a forward pair) and it didn't take long to get the crowd into it. The Filppula, Killorna nd Hedman trio might not have been the big names to begin it all but they still produced some exciting hockey. The place was buzzing and on-edge as both teams rushed end to end with Ben Bishop and Steve Mason making spectacular saves and putting on a show for the fans.
When Bishop stopped the penalty shot in overtime, you could barely hear yourself think the arena got so loud. It felt like a playoff game. And it only served to keep the crowd pumped up. If the game went to the shootout at that point would have been almost as big of a let-down as losing the game. When Hedman got his break away, I thought back to the Florida game last year where he did the same thing in overtime and slapped one home. Instead, he was denied on a pass.
The moment that trumped it all was the game winner: Jason Garrison, he of the Gentlemanly Hockey Beard Society, came down and put on a nifty move to put the puck through Mason's five hole. And Amalie Arena went absolutely nuts.
Mark me down as a fan of the 3 on 3 overtime.