The Lightning began its Stanley Cup journey Thursday night at Amalie Arena, a forced march that, if successful, will unite a community. Hockey Bay.
Yes, it's time for everyone out there to start calling them Stammer and Heddy and Kuch and Vasy and Cally and on and on. Please study these nicknames and commit them to memory. There will be a test before the next round, if there is one.
Thursday was for Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils. Thursday was for a 5-2 win, a solid enough beginning, the Lightning playing like a top seed, playing its way, with the Brayden Point line scoring twice against the Taylor Hall line, no major defensive breakdowns. And then enough to withstand a strong Jersey surge in the second half of the game. It was a generally good night for goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. And to think New Jersey swept the season series. This just in: It's the playoffs.
A: The Lightning needed to break out fast in this series and it did. It kept on the forecheck and put early pressure on the Devils and it eventually paid off, as Tyler Johnson slipped a pass to Ondrej Palat, who flipped a backhander past Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid for a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Palat had three-point night.
Here’s Johnny! Again.
A: Remember when Tyler Johnson was king of the world? It was 2015, Johnson was a scoring machine and might have helped lead the Lightning to the Cup if it hadn't been for a wrist injury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against Chicago. But it was like old times Thursday, vintage Johnson as he scored a goal and added an assist as his line powered the Lightning to a 2-0 lead. Added bonus: Johnson's chest up against the glass with a female fan. Oh, those playoff moments.
Follow the bouncing puck
C: We don't know if it was the guy who shaved the ice before the game or the guy who was supposed to freeze the pucks or just plain bad luck, but the rubber went the wrong way, popping up just enough on Lightning center Yanni Gourde after he broke in and deked goalie Kinkaid out of his pads. No goal for Gourde, but the Bolts rookie brought his game, and scored a power-play goal in the second period.