LIGHTNING RECAP : GAMES 1 TO 5
By Leo Haggerty
Archived under Featured Articles – Professional & Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning opened the 2019-20 regular season with a home game with the Florida Panthers on October 3rd.  After that, the Bolts will not return to Amalie Arena until Saturday, October 19th.  Heck of a way to open the season, right?

That road trip will be of the six-game variety.  It will start with the back-end of a home-and-home with the Panthers.  Tampa Bay will then head to Carolina before heading north of the border for a swing through Eastern Canada.

How will Tampa Bay fare in the first five games of the campaign?  Let’s gather around the TV and find out, shall we?  Enjoy.

FLORIDA PANTHER (W 5-2)

Tampa Bay opened the 2019-20 campaign with a victory over their intrastate rival, the Florida Panthers, by a score of 5-2.  That put the Bolts at 1-0-0 to start the season on the good foot.

The Lightning opened the scoring early in the first period when F Nikita Kucherov (1) put the biscuit in the basket at 6:39.  That would be all the scoring in the opening period as both teams spent most of the first 20 minutes trying to get acclimated to the start of the regular season.

Each team lit the lamp in the second stanza.  Florida knotted the score at 2:35 but the Bolts regained the lead with a goal by D Ken Shattenkirk (1) at 10:28.  Both teams went to the locker room for the second intermission with Tampa Bay holding a 2-1 advantage.

The Panthers evened the score at 2-all at 8:49 of the final period with a shorthanded marker.  That seemed to awaken the Lightning as the Bolts regained the lead in less than a minute.  F Ondrej Palat (1) put Tampa Bay back on top at 9:34 with a power play score and the Lightning kept the petal to the metal from there.

F Pat Maroon (1) added an insurance goal at 13:51.  D Erik Cernak posted an empty-netter at 19:14 and the Bolts secured their first win of the season.

Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy (1-0) made 35 saves to secure the victory.  Panthers G Sergei Bobrovsky (0-1) stopped 29 shots in a losing effort.

Now, the Bolts become road warriors with the next six away from the friendly confines of Amalie Arena.  Tune in to see how the Lightning fare.

FLORIDA PANTHER (L 4-3)

In the second part of a back-to-back to open the season, the Panthers reversed the outcome with a 4-3 victory over the Lightning at the BB & T Center.  That evened the record of both Tampa Bay and Florida at one-up-and-one-down.

After a scoreless first period, the Panthers erupted for three goals in just under three minutes.  F Mike Hoffman started the barrage at 9:39 and added a second goal at 11:05.   Both tallies were while Florida was on the power-play.  F Noel Acciari finished the Cats second period scoring at 12:32.

The Bolts got on the scoreboard at 16:23.  F Gemel Smith (1) lit the lamp to cut the margin to 3-1 and that’s how it stayed going to the second intermission.

Florida made it 4-1 when Hoffman completed the hat trick just 17 ticks into the final period.  Tampa Bay did make it interesting with goals by F Steven Stamkos (1) at 6:40 and F Mathieu Joseph (1) at 15:41 but it was too little and too late as the Panthers were able to protect the one-goal advantage to secure the victory.

Vasilevskiy (1-1) stopped 24 of 28 shots in a losing effort.  Bobrovsky (1-1) made 32 saves to come away with the win.

So it’s off to Carolina before visiting our neighbors to the North when the Bolts head to Canada for a trio of contests.  Can the Lightning get back on the winning track in Raleigh?  Tune in to find out.

CAROLINA HURRICANES (L 4-3 OT)

The Hurricanes scored the game-winning goal at the 1:53 mark of overtime to complete a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Lightning.  That put the Bolts at 1-1-1 on the season and Carolina remained undefeated at 3-0-0.  To say this is a contest where Tampa Bay let a two-point victory slip right through their fingers would be an understatement.

Carolina started the scoring just over a minute into the tilt but the Bolts tied it with a goal by F Tyler Johnson (1) at 2:22 of the opening stanza.  Tampa Bay took the lead at 9:53 when Shattenkirk (2) converted a power play opportunity.  The Lightning extended their lead when Stamkos (2) put the biscuit in the basket at 17:44.  That gave the Bolts what seemed like a comfortable 3-1 lead as both teams headed to the locker room for the first intermission.

The Hurricanes had other ideas though.  The home team cut the deficit to 3-2 with a power-play marker at 13:49 of the middle period.  Carolina came all the way back in the final period to knot the score at three-each with another power-play counter at 12:48.

That sent the game to extra time and the Hurricane won it when D Jaccob Slavin put the puck behind Lightning G Curtis McElhinney.  Truly, an opportunity lost especially with a spectacular game by #35 in net.

McElhinney (0-1) made 40 saves and was tremendous in defeat.  Carolina G Petr Mrazek (2-0) only faced 13 shots, with the Bolts not managing a shot on goal for the entire second period, and only two scoring chances in the final 20 minutes.  That kind of offensive output will not win a lot of games, if any, in the National Hockey League.

The Lightning now head North of the Border to start their three-game tour through Eastern Canada.  The Bolts performance definitely has to improve, and improve quickly, or this road excursion is going to be a very long, as well as unprofitable, one from a points standpoint for the Lightning.

Can the Bolts turn it around?  Let’s check it out and see how they play against a very good Toronto team.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (W 7-3)

The Bolts, after an explosive first period where both teams found the back of the net a total of seven times, tightened up the defense and came away with a 7-3 triumph over the Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Arena.  Tampa Bay improved to 2-1-1 on the season and Toronto fell to 2-2-1 on the campaign.

If the first 20 minutes was any indication of how the game was going to progress, then it would have been first one to 10 goals would win.  F Brayden Point (1) opened the scoring for the Lightning at 2:28.  The Leafs matched that at 4:19 and took the lead at 7:46.  Tampa Bay knotted the count at 2-all at 11:24 when Kucherov (2) found the back of the net.  Shattenkirk (3) then gave the visitors a 3-2 advantage at 12:45.

The Maple Leafs tied the score at 3-apiece when F Auston Matthews (6) put the biscuit in the basket at 17:56.  Not to be outdone, Stamkos (3) put the Bolts back on top at 19:17.  Both teams went to their locker rooms after a first period offensive onslaught with the Lightning holding a precarious 4-3 lead.

Both teams settled down in the middle period.  Tampa Bay was able to extend it lead to 5-3 at 10:46 with Point’s (2) second marker of the evening.

The final period was all Bolts.  Palat (2) at 3:36 and Kucherov (3) at 6:57 finished off the scoring for the Lightning.

Lightning G Vasilevskiy (2-1) finished with 25 saves but, more importantly, shut the Maple Leafs out over the last two-plus periods. Leafs G Frederik Anderson (2-2), who was replaced midway through the final 20 minutes of play by Michael Hutchinson, stopped 21 shots in a losing effort.

The Bolts now travel to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa to take on the Senators on the fourth leg of their six-game road trip.  How will Tampa Bay do?  My suggestion is to gather around the TV set and watch.  Games with the Sens are never dull.

OTTAWA SENATORS (L 4-2)

This five-gamer concluded with a 4-2 setback to the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.  The loss dropped the Bolts to 2-2-1 on the season and the Sens, notching their first victory in the process, improved to 1-3-0.

After a scoreless first period, Ottawa sandwiched two goals, at 13:44 and 19:33, around a Palat marker at 14:21.  That gave the Senators a 2-1 lead at the second intermission.

The Lightning drew even at 2-all when F Luke Witkowski (1) lit the lamp at 8:56 of the final period.  The Sens took the lead for good at 16:57 when former Bolt Vladislav Namestnikov, who was just acquired by Ottawa, redirected a pass into the back of the net.  Namestnikov added an empty-netter at 19:38 to make the final arithmetic 4-2 in favor of the Canadian crew.

Tampa Bay G McElhinney (0-2) took the hard-luck loss stopping 30 of 33 shots.  Ottawa G Craig Anderson (1-2) made 19 saves in securing the victory.

So, the Bolts finished their initial five-game segment with a 2-2-1 log.  That was good for five points and that’s not a bad start in their first fistful of games to start.  Not bad considering, outside of the opener, four of the first five were on the road but this organization was looking for a better performance.

The Lightning are still guilty of way too many turnovers, especially in their own zone, as well as taking too many unnecessary penalties.  That needs to improve quickly if this team wants to return to the playoffs.

The next five-game sequence has two more road contests against Montreal and Boston before returning to Amalie Arena for three home tilts all against 2019 playoff clubs in Colorado followed by Pittsburgh and then Nashville.  With that schedule, we will see right away if the Tampa Bay players get the message.