The Tampa Bay Lightning’s campaign 23-24 kicked off with a strong win on home ice over the Nashville Predators. After just two goals combined through the first two periods, both teams totaled six goals between them in the third period, with Tampa Bay claiming four of them and coming away with a 5-3 victory.
The four goal outburst in the third period was headlined by a pair of power play goals from Nick Paul and a successful penalty shot from Brandon Hagel. Hagel’s penalty shot goal was the first for Tampa Bay since Blake Coleman in 2021.
Strong Start out of the Gate
The Lightning came out focused and played with a purpose. They completely dominated the first 20 minutes and controlled the majority of possession and played nearly exclusively in the Nashville end of the ice. Most impressive of all was that Tampa Bay held Nashville to just two shots on goal in the opening frame.
They do not necessarily play together regularly, but the line of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov were particularly sharp in the first. It is unlikely this trio will stick together all year as this team loves to shuffle the deck, but this line is always a nice option to have. They also combined for the first goal tonight and tallied six points between them.
Nick Paul : Two Goals on PP1
We talked about this in the summertime and in the preseason. With Alex Killorn gone, somebody needed to step into the net-front role on the Lightning’s top power play unit. Nick Paul looks like he might be the man for the job in the early going. Paul collected a pair of power play goals in the third period, including the game winner.
Paul’s pair of goals did not feature the beautiful passing or flashy one-timers that this power play has been known for. Both of his goals came from second chance opportunities by going to the dirty areas and battling at the front of the net for loose pucks. Between Paul’s size and hands, he may find himself carving out a regular role here on the Lightning power play.
Johansson Solid in Net
There has obviously been a tremendous amount of uncertainty around the Lightning’s goaltending situation. With Jonas Johansson impressing in preseason, many have been put more at ease with state of the Lightning crease. With tonight being his first regular season action in Tampa, he passed the test and he looks like he will be capable of helping keep the Lightning afloat until Andrei Vasilevskiy gets healthy.
Johansson stopped 28 of 31 Predator shots that came his way. If he is able to keep his save percentage around the .900 area, that is all the Lightning can ask for. If the team in front of him is able to defend how they did in the first period tonight, that will only help alleviate the goaltending concerns.