With team captain and leading scorer Steven Stamkos and defensive stalwart Anton Stralman unavailable due to injuries, the talk surrounding the Lightning leading into the postseason has been about the rest of the team "stepping up". Based on their performance in tonight's Game 1, it appears the message has been received... as if that was even necessary.
"It's playoffs so you are pretty amped up. The adrenaline is going and you know, I felt pretty good. Playing with (Kucherov) and (Killorn) definitely helped and they made the game easy." - Tyler Johnson
The Lightning actually didn't register their first shot until 4:42 into the first period. Their second one came just under two minutes later at 6:23 and ended up in the Detroit net, courtesy of Nikita Kucherov with assistance coming from Johnson and Alex Killorn.
The period ended with the Lightning holding that 1-0 advantage.
The Red Wings took the lead during a two-minute span early in a sluggish, penalty-filled second. They tied the game at 2:11 on a goal by Mike Green, assisted by Dany Dekeyser and Tomas Tatar.
At 4:07, they assumed the lead when Justin Abdelkader redirected Kyle Quincey's shot, appearing to graze Victor Hedman's shoulder and deflect past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
The Lightning tied the game again at 9:29 on Kucherov's second goal of the night, this time assisted by Braydon Coburn and Nikita Nesterov.
"We work a lot and coaches show me a lot of videos of guys playing. I watch myself, Kane and Ovechkin and how they score goals. All they do is just shoot the puck and that is what I'm trying to do, just shoot and the goals will come. If you don't shoot, you won't score." - Kucherov
The score was tied at two after two.
It looked like the Lightning had re-taken the lead at 6:55 of the third on a goal by Hedman, but it was correctly overruled by video replay that showed Jonathan Drouin clearly offsides on the play.
Just under two minutes later, they did re-take the lead with Killorn scoring the eventual game winner, getting help from Johnson and Kucherov.
Bad blood between the teams was evident early and often as each side rang up 18 minutes of penalties with Abdelkader leading the way with six. Coburn and Jonathan Drouin led Lightning skaters with four each. The Lightning were 0-for-4 on the power play while Detroit went 0-for-5.
"I think it's huge. I think when you look at last year, a lot of the first games we went down, and then it's just an uphill climb. To get that first game, it is great momentum-wise going into the second game." - Killorn
Game 2 of the series is Friday night in Tampa.
- This is the second ever and second consecutive postseason series between the Red Wings and Lightning. The Lightning came back from a 3-2 series deficit to win in seven games in last year's first round meeting.
- The two teams split their four regular season match-ups, each picking up wins at home.
- Ben Bishop started all four of those games, going 2-2-0 with a 1.77 Goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
- Tampa Bay is now 7-11 in the opening game of a playoff series and 2-7 in the opening game of a First Round series.
- Their all-time record in playoff games is 52-48, going 24-25 at Amalie Arena.
- Valtteri Filppula has played in more playoff games than any other Lightning player with 136 games, followed by Matthew Carle with 114.
- Killorn, Johnson and Kucherov led all skaters with +3 ratings.
- Hedman's stats were not spectacular but he had a tremendous game defensively. Effectively breaking up a two-on-one opportunity for the Red Wings in the third period may have been the highlight but he was a force all night long.
- The Lightning honored Monsignor Laurence Higgins as the 42nd Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Higgins, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Abe Brown Ministries, St. Peter Claver School and Cristo Rey. In 1958, Higgins founded St. Lawrence Catholic Church of Tampa and has been a dedicated champion to the poor, minorities and the elderly. In his fight to assist the disadvantaged, he led an effort to build retirement apartments for low income seniors and provided 250 affordable homes to first time buyers. Due to his additional involvement in mental health awareness and drug addiction treatment, the University of South Florida named its Alcoholism and Research program in his honor. His unconditional love and willingness to serve others has permanently impacted the citizens of Hillsborough County. Higgins becomes the 221st Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $11.2 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.