Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Atlanta Thrashers
Tonight witnessed an impressive start to the season, as the Lightning beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-3.
Tampa Bay started with aggressive, decisive play from every line, maintaining excellent presence on the ice against Atlanta. The highlights started early with Steve Downie's opening power play goal, assisted by Ryan Malone and Brett Clark. Momentum surged, resulting in Dominic Moore's goal, assisted by Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim, giving the Lightning an early 2-0 lead.
Last week head coach Guy Boucher demanded 40 shots on goal per game; this week, there were 20 after the first period.
And just when we thought this was a new regime, with the beginning goals from Downie and Moore, the second period continued with sharp play from Vincent Lecavalier, resulting in a power play goal two minutes into the second period, assisted by Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.
Though last season, Lecavalier didn't score until nine games in, perhaps it's a good sign to see Vinny scoring early on.
Thoughts from Boucher and more after the jump.
Boucher, on the other hand, didn't attribute Lecavalier's performance to tonight alone, to Lecavalier's hard work:
"I don't think it's an isolated game. It's important that he feels it and everyone knows that. He deserves it because he's been great since the beginning of camp. I think it's just a continuation of his game since day one, and I'm glad it paid off in his first game."
Lecavalier's goal was followed by another one from Stamkos, giving the Lightning a 4-0 lead five minutes into the second.
Which is where the problems started.
After several Lightning penalties in the second, including Downie's unsportsmanlike conduct the Lightning were down two men more than once (we'll go ahead and congratulate Downie for getting two minutes instead of five). The Lightning fought hard, blocking several shots and killing the first Atlanta power play, until they finally fell with a goal from Tobias Endstrom, followed from a goal from Ben Eager.
Boucher had little to say about tonight's penalties, noting:
"Sometimes you're better off not talking about the penalties.They're days I'm going to blame my players and there's other days I don't."
The Lightning finished the second period, still leading 4-2, but with markedly less momentum than before.
In the third, the Lightning regained intensity, and played hard through the end, giving and getting with goals from Chris Thorburn and Steven Stamkos. The Lightning were intense, but couldn't pull it together to regain the control they achieved in the first period.
Judging from what we witnessed in the first period, we're clearly dealing with a different team this year. This team has depth and stability. They have confidence. They have power, and they want to win.
Tonight the Lightning picked up two points and turned heads, but they've got work to do.