Lightning Start the 2021-22 Season With a Bang

On Thursday night, the defending champions finally came together on the road to get their first win of the season in a dramatic fashion against the Detroit Red Wings. They overcame two three-goal deficits to win in overtime. Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals in the game, and even with that impressive stat, they could not sustain Tampa Bay’s top-six forwards, who took the games in their hands and won the game singlehandedly. The games’ final score was 7-6 and ended on a goal by forward Ondrej Palat in overtime on a pass from star defenseman Victor Hedman.

For the Lightning to get to the win column, they had to work extra hard. They had a slow start in both games against the Red Wings and their home opener loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Against the depleted Penguins on Tuesday night, they had the advantage of going in against a team without star players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. With the Stanley Cup ceremony before the game, the Lightning players were appeared not emotionally invested in playing the game. They were not skating, and a low percentage of passes were completed. They left their goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy out to dry.

Ultimately, they lost the game 6-2. The Penguins scored three open net goals as a result. The Lightning players admitted after the game that the opening Stanley Cup ceremony made them lose track of the game plan. All that to say, up until the third period against Detroit on Thursday night, the Lightning did not perform or looked like back-to-back defending champions.

Furthermore, the Lightning had the same intensity to start the game against the Red Wings. The Red Wings scored one goal in the first period thanks to the captain Dylan Larkin. Tyler Bertuzzi scored two goals to put them up by three to open the second period. Ondrej Palat scored right after Bertuzzi’s second goal to be the first Tampa player on the scoreboard.

At the halfway point of the game is where everything changed for the Lightning. At 11:40 into the second period, Mathieu Joseph boarded Dylan Larkin, and Larkin immediately responded by sucker-punching Joseph in the face. All the players on the ice got into a scrum. Larkin got assessed a match penalty on the play, and Joseph left with an injury. Larkin was thrown out of the game as a result of everything that happened, and Joseph did not receive a boarding penalty, but Detroit ended up on the powerplay. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper got furious at the referees’ decision and fired up his team doing so.

The Red Wings scored on the powerplay, but when they came back to even strength, the Lightning started their comeback. Steven Stamkos scored two goals to finish the period, but in the early part of the third period, the Red Wings responded with two goals. The Red Wings started focusing on defensive play, resulting in Tampa Bay having the puck most of the time. They took advantage of that and scored three times late in the third thanks to Ross Colton, Nikita Kucherov, and Alex Killorn. The game went into overtime, and Palat scored the winner with 2:43 left.

The Lightning seem to have a consistency issue to start the season, and they only had one player from the bottom six depth that scored a goal. Last year, the Lightning had the luxury of having the third line consisting of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow. They provided the team energy and scored some goals when the top six forwards were not having a good night. The top six will have to step up and be consistent for the team to rack up wins during the season.

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