20 years… let that sink in. Two decades ago the then Ice Palace opened before a sold out crowd. In town were the New York Rangers, but the Lightning sent them home with a 5-2 loss in 1996. Since then the building has been through a few name changes (St Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay Times Forum and now Amalie Arena.). One thing hasn’t change and that’s the passion this town has built towards this team. Sure there were years Lightning fans would rather forget about, but there are years like in 2004 when the team hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup here in Tampa. Even in 2004 I can’t say the team was as deep as they are now. On the 20th anniversary of the opening night of the building the Bolts welcomed in the Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche. Entering the game tonight the Lightning defend a 3-0-0 record at home. This is the final game of the four game opening home series against a team the split with last season. Here at Amalie Colorado won 2-1, but shortly after the Lightning shut out the Avalanche in their home 4-0.
The game seemed to start off much like previous games so far in this young season. The Lightning appeared to be on their heels from the get go in the opening minutes of the game. Anton Stralman would get cross checked in his ribs by Matt Duchene. The hit would force Stralman to his knees and off the ice for a brief time before returning. Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod would renew an old rivalry by dropping the gloves just like they did in February of 2015. Shortly after Tampa Bay would go on the power play following a tripping call. While the Bolts have been better with the man advantage to begin the season tonight’s first attempt seemed a little sloppy. Play would go back and forth for the rest of the period neither goalie got peppered with shots (10 total with two minutes remaining). As the period was coming to an end Matt Duchene would notch goal number one on the season to put Colorado up 1-0.
Following a first period that once again saw the Lightning unable to score, the second started much like the first. While there was a tiny bit more shooting to start off the period, but Tampa was unable to capitalize on a few good quality chances. Nikita Kucherov who held out until nearly the last minute hasn’t seemed like his normal self. After a stint on Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey you would think Kucherov wouldn’t show up rusty. As the team prepares to embark on a six game road trip one thing is for sure Kucherov needs to find his groove. Colorado continued to keep the Lightning back on their heels minus a few chances the Lightning have had. While the Bolts have had pressure sporadically throughout the game Colorado has gotten good enough bounces following a redirect by Matt Duchene for his second goal of the game.
Tampa needed to get off to an extremely hot start in the 3rd for a chance to go 4-0-0 in their opening home stand. Anytime it looked as though the Bolts were going to break through the Avalanche had an answer for them. Just when it looked like there was a glimmer of hope as Stamkos took a shot that found the net behind Varlamov the ref blew his whistle. After watching the replay it was clear Andrej Sustr who appeared to possibly get a piece of the shot was offsides as the play went into the offensive zone. Moments later Andreas Martinsen would get a goal similar to Danny Dekyser from the first game. Heading into the Lightning’s zone a Colorado player would send the puck into their offensive zone. As Bishop went to play the puck it took and awkward bounce giving Martinsen a wide open net to score an easy goal. The Lightning would hold a 24-15 shots on goal advantage, but no goals on the score board. With 12:23 gone from the third Carl Soderberg would fire a shot just above the offensive zone face off circle the Bishop didn’t seem to have a chance to stop giving the Avalanche a 4-0 lead. This has been the worst game the Lightning have played so far in this young season, but probably won’t be their last. Media and fans a like knew this team which had played so well through the first three games was due for a bad game and boy did they get one. Varlamov was too much for the Lightning this evening as the team goes to 3-1-0 before a six game road trip which starts in Ottawa against former head coach Guy Boucher.
Three Stars of the Game
#3 – Andreas Martinsen (LW – COL) – Had the goal midway through the third that sealed it.
#2 – Semyon Varlamov (G – COL) – 27 shot shut out to hand the Lightning their first loss of the season.
#1 – Matt Duchane (C – COL) – His first two goals of the season against a very good Lightning team. He also added an assist on Soderburg’s goal in the 3rd.