By Jake Ricker
The Lightning officially kicked off their season in New York tonight, and the excitement was high. Here were the lines for the game:
The Lightning got off to a hot start with a few quick shots on goal. The Rangers quickly settled down though, and both teams were playing well. Brandon Hagel then had a good chance as a rebound popped right to him. Shesterkin stood tall and kept the puck out of the net.
The Lightning then had a few shakey line changes, and the Rangers looked to take advantage. After a few quick shots on goal, the puck was loose for a big rebound. Vasilevskiy did what he does best though, and made a fantastic stretching save.
Eric Cernak would pick up a holding call late in the first, sending the Bolts to their first penalty kill of the season. The Rangers got a few good looks on net, but Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defense stood tall and killed off the penalty. The period then came to a close, with neither team being able to find the back of the net.
The Lightning picked up an early chance on the power play as the Rangers were called for holding. Unoftently, things fell apart for the Lightning on a very sloppy power play, and the Rangers took advantage. Zibanejad got around a Vasilevskiy poke check and buried a shot top shelf for a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers were the better team in the second period, but things would get a little tougher as they were called for elbowing and tripping at the same time. The Lightning would not make the same mistake twice as Stamkos blasted one home to tie the game at one. The Rangers would kill off the rest of the second penalty, and we would go back to 5-on-5.
Things then began to pick up quickly, with good chances at both ends of the ice. Neither goaltender wanted to budge, though and we remained tied at 1-1. The Lightning would then head back to the penalty kill as Ross Colton was called for interference. The Rangers had a few big chances, but the Lightning penalty kill again shut them down.
Unfotenetly they wouldn't get much rest as Stamkos was called for a trip. Despite having to stay on the ice for the full two minutes, the penalty-killing unit got the job done.
The Lightning would have another early power play chance after the Rangers were called for a trip. This time the Rangers held off the Lightning and killed off the penalty. Unfortunately for the Lightning Namestnikov was then called for a high stick, and now they would be on the penalty kill. The Rangers took advantage of it just seconds into the man advantage, blasting one past Vasilevskiy for a 2-1 lead.
5-on-5 hockey didn't last long though, as the Rangers received two for holding. The power play struggles continued though, as the Rangers limited the Lightning in their chances. It was all Rangers now as they stumped the Lightning and put pressure on Vasilevskiy. They would then break through to make it a 3-1 hockey game.
The Lightning would get another chance on the man advantage as the Rangers were called for holding. The power play woes continued, though, as the Lightning once again failed to convert. Vasilevskiy then headed to the bench as the Lightning looked to make one last push. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be enough as the Lightning fell to the Rangers by a final score of 3-1 on opening night.
The Lightning overall didn't look too bad, but there were a few major points that held them back. Special teams were the first issue, with the Lighting only converting on a 5-on-3 while giving letting up a power-play goal to the Rangers. The Lightning also need to be better in the faceoff circle, winning just 36.2 % of them.
The positives from this game were Vasilevskiy, as he made 36 saves on 39 shots. Both Hayden Fleury and Philippe Myers played well, which was good to see. Brandon Hagle also drew threw penalties and had a shot on goal.
The good news is this is only game one of 82, and the Lightning have a lot of time to correct their game.
Three Stars Via NHL.com
1. Zibanejad (2G)
2. Trouba (1A)
3. Vasilevskiy (36 SV)
The Lightning's next game will be against the Blue Jackets Friday, October 14th, at 7 PM ET.
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