The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the 2016-17 season with a win, defeating the Detroit Red Wings, 6-4, in front of a sold out crowd at Amalie Arena on Thursday night.
This was a wild one, folks, and it didn’t start off in the best way for the Bolts. Yet, they continued to prove they can remain calm in the face of adversity, which has become their bread and butter with Jon Cooper behind the bench. The result was coming back from an early 2-0 deficit to stun the division rival Wings off the efforts of six different goal scorers.
The first 10 minutes were pretty crappy, but that is to be expected in Game No. 1. There is a sort of “feeling out” process that teams must go through at the start of the season. And though the core of players is virtually the same, the starting lineup featured some line shuffles from what we have seen in the past.
Another notable difference we saw was assistant coach Todd Richards in his first regular season action with the Bolts. When Steve Thomas wasn’t brought back after the 2015-16 season, general manager Steve Yzerman brought in Todd Richards, who was known for coaching a stellar power play behind the bench for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Well, that power play coaching didn’t disappoint tonight, as the Lightning cashed in on three out of their six power play chances for the evening. One thing I noticed was a lot of movement on this power play – passes, players rotating and – gasp! – shots toward the net. We’ll see if that continues going forward.
Detroit got on the board early when there was some mayhem going on in front of Ben Bishop. Thomas Vanek, who has been a thorn in the side of the Bolts for years, registered the first goal of the game at 3:12 of the first period on the power play. The assists went to Henrik Zetterberg and Frans Nielsen.
That seemed to put the Lightning back on their heels a little bit, and Detroit began to make a strong push to add another. That second goal came just over five minutes later, again by Thomas Vanek. The goal, scored at 8:26, came off a brutal turnover by Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov. Gustav Nyquist picked up an assist after snatching the bad pass by Nesterov and shoveling it to Vanek for the easy goal.
The action in the second period started off just as quickly when, with just over two minutes played, Dylan Larkin nearly cashed in as the late man from the Red Wings bench. Not too long after that, Nikita Kucherov had his own golden chance off a long lead pass by Alex Killorn for a breakaway. His shot, however, went wide of the net.
With Detroit defenseman Mike Green off for hooking, Jonathan Drouin was able to show off his incredible shot by firing a laser underneath the crossbar on the power play. The assists on the goal, which came at 7:23, went to Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman.
It looked as if the Lightning would begin clawing their way back when, less than a minute later, Frans Nielsen again increased the Wings lead to two. Mike Green and Dylan Larkin picked up the assists.
After a Detroit defenseman got caught in the offensive zone midway through the period, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin rushed down the ice on a 2-on-1. Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek made an incredible pad save on Stamkos to keep the lead for his team.
But in an incredible display of misfortune for Mrazek, Cedric Paquette managed to squeak a lucky shot through his pads at 13:05.
It got a little chippy after this goal when Jonathan Drouin followed up on a dribbled puck by goaltender Petr Mrazek. Forward Steve Ott took exception and went after Drouin, but Braydon Coburn stepped in to defend his teammate. Off in the corner, Andrej Sustr and Brendan Smith got in a fight of their own, and both went off with fighting majors.
The fourth line got things going in the third period for the Bolts, when Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown charged in on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing to Brown, Boyle ripped a shot off the post and into the back of the net to tie it up at 3-3. The lone assist went to Cedric Paquette.
Tyler Johnson gave the Bolts their first lead of the night, when he added a power play goal at 8:34. Steven Stamkos fired a pass toward Johnson from the point, and it was tipped past a down-and-out Mrazek.
Killorn notched the Lightning’s final power play goal of the evening at 16:50, with assists by Jonathan Drouin and Victor Hedman, adding some insurance to the score.
That insurance came in handy when Ben Bishop got caught in a little bit of bad luck. When defenseman Danny DeKeyser fired the puck into the offensive zone from center ice, it took a funny hop off the glass and slipped past Bishop to make it 5-4 at 17:55.
Valtteri Filppula added an empty net goal against his former team to seal the deal at 18:39.
Be sure to catch the Bolts on Saturday as they take on the New Jersey Devils here at home at 7 p.m.