Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning exhausted their fans with a five-overtime marathon to open the postseason. This time around it only took 60 minutes to wear out their followers. The good news is that the Bolts emerged victorious in both instances. Backed by a lethal power play Tampa Bay took the first game in a penalty-filled, back-and-forth game with the Florida Panthers.
More outstanding news is that it looks like Nikita Kucherov circumvented the usual rusty start players have after a long layoff. His passes were crisp form the get-go (on his first shift he had a nifty little behind the back pass at center ice that sent a teammate into the Florida zone). On the power play, he was up to his usual tricks, scoring twice and then faking out the entire Panthers defense with a shot/pass that led to Point’s game-tying goal.
The Lightning played with pace and determination at all strengths. It looked like they were able to flip the switch and completely reverse the lethargic end to their regular season. The only problem, the Panthers matched their play for most of the game. This series isn’t going to be a cakewalk.
The good news is that the Lightning’s efficiency on the power play (they went 3-for-40) may be the exact antidote for some of the post-whistle shenanigans the Panthers have been pulling over the last few games (not that the Lightning have been blameless). If Florida has trouble stopping them on the power play, they might think twice about that extra shove or facewash because it could lead to an unnecessary penalty. That, more than any game management by the refs, will go a long way to bringing the simmering tensions down between the two teams.
At even strength this is a pretty square match-up. The high-danger chances were even at 6 and Florida had the slightest of edges in terms of shot attempts (42-41) and scoring chances (19-17). The Lightning earned the 1-0 series lead, but only by the slimmest of margins. They will have to play better at even strength if they want to pull off the upset.
Our quick recap of Game One. Matt will be along later today with a more in-depth look at last night’s action.
Matt breaks down the numbers of the series. Will the return of Stamkos and Kucherov be enough to propel them over a team that they have struggled against this season?
While Matt tries to predict the future, JustinG. delves into the past to see what the first meeting between the Panthers and Lightning looked like. From reports, not great.
It wasn’t the strongest finish to the season, but the Lightning have plenty of veteran experience in the locker room. Hopefully that helps them turn things around.
It was a drive though pep rally in the parking lot of Westshore Plaza, but local Lightning fans arrived in force
Last night’s games:
Kyle Palmieri is the greatest deadline pickup in the history of the NHL. The former Devil scored twice, including in overtime to lead the Islanders to victory. Igor Sorokin picked up the win by making 39 saves in his first NHL playoff game ever.
Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT) Wild lead series 1-0
Why not play three overtime games to start off this postseason? The Wild and the Golden Knights played a pitcher’s duel before Joel Eriksson Ek won it at the 3:20 mark of the bonus frame. Cam Talbot (!) made 42 saves while Marc-Andre Fleury was the hard-luck loser, stopping 29 of 30.
Capitals lead series, 1-0
Game One of the series
Game One of the series