Friday, 3:30 a.m.
The telling sense of Opening Night for the Tampa Bay Lightning was not of sight, although it was impressive to see the Lightning throw up six goals in the final two periods.
It wasn't feel, although it was nice for the Boys to be back on the ice after an off-season.
The ultimate sense of Opening Night, however, was sound.
There was still 4:43 left in the first period of Thursday night's game. There were still 81 2/3 games left to play for the Bolts, who have just completed perhaps the finest off-season in club history. And much of the crowd was booing.
Has it come to this? We so want instant gratification that we will not wait
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for our hockey team to play an entire period before the boobirds come out. We are so impatient that we not only want excellence, we want it now.
There has never been this kind of expectation about a Lightning team before, especially one with a pat hand. That's what happens when a team re=signs Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn and Cedric Paquette and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Fans not only want this team to win the Stanley Cup. They want it to do it before October is over.
“I didn't hear that,” said forward Tyler Johnson. “I know our fans have a lot of expectations. But no one's expectations are higher than the people in the locker room. We wanted to come back and get a win, and we did.”
And that's the important thing. Not that the crowd had lofty expectations, but one game, and the Bolts met them. They came back with six goals in the final two periods to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 6-4. The power play, which was only 28th in the league last year, scored three times. And once again, the Bolts hinted at how deep they were.
The big-money trio of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov? None of them scored. But everyone else, it seemed, did.
Jonathan Drouin, the kid who turned lovable in last year's playoffs, scored on a vicious shot.
Brian Boyle, who seems to score nothing but big goals, went to shelf for one.
Cedric Paquette, who does so much of the dirty work, scored. Alex Killorn scored. Tyler Johnson, who never was healthy a year ago, scored. Valtteri Filppula, who never seems to shoot, knocked in an empty netter at the end.
And the Lightning, one game in, is undefeated.
“We’ve talked to Jo quite a bit,” said Bolts' coach Jon Cooper. “You look and see
where he’s comfortable. That power play unit kind of goes through him. He and (Kucherov) can interchange both sides and work it. His vision, you know, the game’s slowed down for Jo now. You just look at that pass. He was on the opposite side when he made that pass to Killorn at the end. The kid’s got wonderful vision on the ice and he competed hard. I thought he had a heck of a game tonight. When you got two units you can roll out there and they’re both dangerous, it’s pretty potent. Sometimes a team just has one big unit and they go to a second unit. I feel, regardless of who we throw out there, it’s a pretty dangerous group.”
Cooper said his team was unruffled when Detroit took the lead.
“We kind of gave them both goals,” Cooper said. “We put the first one in the net for them, and the second one scored on a bad turnover by Nestie (Nikita Nesterov). But one of the staples of our team where we've grown is the calm on the bench. You've seen it before.”
If anything was promising on the evening, it was the power play, which was pitiful a year ago. It has been one of the prime points of interest for the team this off-season.
“I think we have been working on it a lot in the preseason,” Johnson said. “We talked about it, and we had to have better execution. It wasn't acceptable how we did last season, and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight. Hopefully we can keep the momentum, keep learning from our mistakes, and keep getting better.”
Goaltender Ben Bishop didn't have one of his finest nights as odd bounces kept getting past him. Bishop did, however, pass Daren Puppa to move into first place on the Lightning's all-time saves list with 4,963.
Tampa Bay is home Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Maybe they'll win the Cup then.