Tonight the Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off tonight what most are calling a must win season for the team. Their opponent on the opposing bench…The Detroit Red Wings. There was hope there was optimism, but an old foe crept in. And familiar hero named Johnson stepped up.
Thomas Vanek (25G-18A-43Pts in 40gp against the Lightning) who in the past has been a Lightning killer notched two goals early in the first period to give Detroit a nice early lead. The start of this game reminded eerily of the majority of the Penguins series in the playoffs. The Lightning were caught flat early on in the game and the Red Wings made them pay for it. While in the first the Lightning out-shot the Red Wings 9-5, the two scoring chances by Vanek that went in were enough to head to the first intermission up 2-0. The Bolts showed grit and determination in their pre-season game against Nashville last Saturday. Consistency was a huge issue last season from Game to Game. They put themselves in more bad spots last season than the other team did. Sometimes sure the other team was just a superior team, but more often than not the Bolts shot themselves in the foot. Petr Mrazek played like the goalie the lightning faced en-route to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago.
Early on in the second period the Red Wings started out shooting the Bolts when Mike Green would get called fro hooking. While serving his to minutes in the box Jonathan Drouin who got the first shot on goal of the season for the Lightning. Would go on to get the first goal / power play goal of the season. The celebration was ultimately short lived as Frans Nielsen would get a rebound in front of Ben Bishop and bury it to regain their 2 goal lead 3-1. With 13:05 gone in the second period Cedric Paquette would take an extremely bad angle low percentage shot and slip it past Mrazek getting the Lightning back to within one goal. This goal also got the crowd back into this game which got the Lightning re-energized. Making another push to the net all hell broke loose. Pushing and shoving would ensue bodies would fly as Coburn would send Steve Ott to the ground after Ott went after Drouin. Sustr and Brendan Smith would both head to the box for fighting. As the final moments ticked off the clock the Lightning would try to score on the power play as the period ended they were unable to tie the game.
Tampa Bay would start the 3rd firing on all cylinders as they broke into the offensive zone and fired a number of shots on Mrazek. The Bolts continued the momentum they had to end the 2nd an it paid off. With less than four minutes gone in the 3rd, Brian Boyle would put a shot on Mrazek with a rushing JT brown bearing down on the Detroit net minder. The puck would go top shelf past the Red Wings goalie to tie the game up at 3-3. Tampa would continue the pressure in the offensive zone finally getting Detroit on their heels. Near the midway point of the 3rd period while on the power play Tyler Johnson would redirect a shot from the point right past Mrazek. Giving Tampa their first lead of the game. Since the first you can tell a difference in the way the Lightning have played. The biggest issue the Lightning had last season was a pass first mentality. Early on in this game you could see left over bad habits from a season ago. From the second period on they seemed to shot first pass second. Detroit would draw another bench minor late in the 3rd and the Lightning would take full advantage. With the puck in the trickling into the offensive zone Drouin would corral the puck and put it tape to tape for Killorn. Alex would redirect the shot over the pads of Mrazek to give the Lightning a 5-3 lead with under four minutes in the game. Red Wings then get one of the weirdest goals I have personally ever seen. Less than two minutes remaining Detroit pulls Mrazek and moments later Filppula gets an open net goal courtesy of Valterri Filppula to give Tampa a 6-4 lead and the final score of the game to give the Bolts an opening night victory.
Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star – Thomas Vanek (DET): Two goals is nothing to laugh at.
2nd Star – Cedric Paquette (TBL): One goal one assist
1st Star – Tyler Johnson (TBL): Got the game winning goal on the power play in the 3rd period.