Tuesday night’s season opener was a celebratory occasion for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the National Hockey League. The Lightning rang in the new year on the NHL calendar and raised their 2021 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters, where it will hang forever.
The party would be short-lived for Tampa Bay, as they were a bit slow to arrive to game action. The Lightning fell 6-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on opening night, and all be it with three goals coming by the empty net. All credit to Pittsburgh, who came to Tampa a bit short-handed but came prepared and stole the show on the Lightning’s special night.
Let’s dive into some takeaways from opening night’s action.
1. Lack of Energy
Despite the grand occasion of raising the championship banner and the energy in the crowd, very little translated to the Lightning’s energy on the ice. They were outplayed in all aspects of the game by Pittsburgh, who was all over them from the jump. The Pens created significantly more opportunities and were effectively able to limit the Lightning on offense, primarily through the opening two periods.
2. Boyle’s First goal
I know Brian Boyle’s time with Tampa is a distant memory, but any Lightning fan should feel happy for Boyle’s big moment. After going the entirety of the previous season unsigned and out of the NHL, Boyle was brought to Pittsburgh for a professional tryout and eventually made the team. This return alone was cause for celebration on top of his already remarkable career journey, but finding the back of the net was a moment all hockey fans can be happy about
3. Raddysh NHL Debut
So, it turned out Taylor Raddysh would be the one to crack the Lightning’s opening night roster and fill the one spot that was still up for grabs in camp. Raddysh came in as a top candidate to land the spot, and he finally was able to get into his first NHL game action after traveling with the team for the majority of last season. Raddysh skated on the Lightning’s fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pat Maroon and registered just over 10 minutes of ice time. Give it a couple of games, and we’ll get to see a little bit more of the versatility that made Raddysh the right choice for the opening night lineup.
4. Questionable Goaltending Pull
Trailing 3-0 late in the third period, Jon Cooper pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy from the Lightning net around the six-minute mark. This pull quickly translated to an Anthony Cirelli goal on a deflected shot from the blueline. Cooper has been aggressive in past years with emptying the net with significant time left to try and inject life into his team. At first, this call did the trick but backfired as Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy almost immediately after the goal, and Pittsburgh began a parade of empty-net goals. The second goalie pull seemed a bit premature and killed the momentum that turned out to be short-lived after Cirelli’s goal.
5. Sending a Message?
Going off the last point, did Cooper continue to be aggressive with pulling Vasilevskiy to make a point to his club? After emptying the net for a second time and going down 4-1, Alex Killorn got the Lightning back within two, and then the net was emptied again, and Pens added another two empty netters. Often, you won’t see coaches continue to pull the goalie this much in the regular season. So perhaps this was a way to get the attention of his club by seeing Pittsburgh hang a significant number on the scoreboard. A couple more dashes added to the players plus/minus rating could do the trick too. Surely this result will grab the attention of the Lightning in the future after losing their first opening night contest since 2013.