Game 1 recap: Power play goals carry Lightning to 3-2 overtime winner over Panthers

\Tampa Bay got all their scoring on the power play as they opened the 2014-15 season at home with a 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday night.

In case anybody forgot, due to an extended playoff hangover or the lingering highs generated from a pretty stellar pre-season and favorable season forecasts for the Lightning from respected hockey pundits or just good ol' Opening Night Fever, sometimes it's still hard to win regular season games in the NHL.

This one wasn't always pretty but you can't question the results as the Lightning cashed in on three power plays (out of ten opportunities) while failing to score at even strength in eventually putting away a feisty and physical Panthers team.

"Those home openers are tough, because there is the long ceremony in the beginning, and it is real exciting. Everyone is jacked up, the coaches, everybody all fired up for the game, and I think you see it in the play. It is a little scrambly, a little jumpy, everything wasn't crisp for either team." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

The first period ended in a scoreless tie, although the Lightning dominated play throughout, frustrating Florida's efforts to control or even possess the puck. This was best evidenced by an 8-3 advantage in shots. Of course, a shot advantage is only decisive if some of them end up in the back of the net. As it was, the period ended in a scoreless tie.

The Panthers opened the second period playing a much more physical style and it seemed to throw the Lightning off their game. Florida broke the seal at 5:03 of the second on a snap shot from Erik Gudbranson, assisted by Dylan Olsen and Derek MacKenzie.

At 7:12, on the Lightning's fourth power play of the night, the Bolts tied the game on a wrist shot from Tyler Johnson. He was assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Anton Stralman on the play.

Tampa Bay seemed to get something of a second wind late in the period and were able to return to disrupting the Panthers' efforts to generate an offensive attack, eventually forcing them to take their timeout with about four minutes remaining in the period. The Lightning certainly benefited from more Panthers penalties as they rung up their seventh through two periods compared to only three at that point for Tampa Bay.

The teams headed into the second intermission tied at one.

The Lightning took their first lead at 7:17 of the third, this time with a two-man advantage. Ryan Callahan notched the goal with helpers from Filppula and Victor Hedman.

The Panthers weren't finished though, and Jonathan Huberdeau tied the game again at 9:16, getting assistance from Brian Campbell and Aaron Ekblad.

The score at the end of regulation was 2-2.

The Lightning entered overtime on the power play once again, thanks to an interference call on Scottie Upshal, who earlier had been the victim of a pretty vicious elbow to the head from Radko Gudas that will almost certainly draw some unwanted attention from the NHL office.

At 1:11 of the extra frame, goaltender Ben Bishop hit Hedman on a pass all the way out to the opposing blue line. Hedman skated in ahead of the Panthers defense and scored on Panther netminder Roberto Luongo to end it.

"That's what we have to do all year. There are going to be a lot of close games, where they are one-goal games, overtime games and the character we have in this room when these are games that we have to win, especially at home." - Lightning forward Ryan Callahan

The Lightning's next game is Saturday night when they'll host the Ottawa Senators.

Game notes:

  • This is the third time in franchise history that the Lightning have opened the regular season against the Panthers and the first time at home.
  • The Lightning are now 13-7-0-2 in season openers and 12-7-1-2 in home openers.
  • The Lightning's first three games (including tonight's opener) are against Atlantic Division foes.
  • Tampa Bay beat Florida in all four meetings during the 2013-14 season and are now 8-1-1 against Florida since the start of the 2012-13 season.
  • The Lightning and Panthers ranked first and second in the NHL for rookie scorers last season. Tampa Bay rookies scored 72 goals while Florida got 40 from their rookies.
  • The Lightning honored Colonel John Carney Jr. as the first Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Carney Jr., who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The Lightning Foundation continues their hero program for their fourth season of a pledge made by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to donate $10-million over five seasons. Carney Jr. has been the driving force behind the success of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit organization that ensures full financial funding for a college education to the surviving children of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel. Through Carney Jr.'s leadership, they know their fallen parent's sacrifice will never be forgotten. Through Carney Jr.'s leadership, 1,035 surviving children will receive a college education, and more importantly, will know their fallen parent's sacrifice will never be forgotten. As a true pathfinder, Carney Jr. had the vision and foresight to take the helm of a struggling charity and build it into one of the highest rated charities in the nation. He built on his experiences as a leader and Air Force Academy football coach to achieve his vision of raising the funds necessary to ensure every child who lost a parent while serving their country received a college education. Carney Jr. is the catalyst for providing life-healing programs through the Special Operations Warrior Foundation./