Who scored the first goal in the league’s new 3-on-3 overtime format?
For the second-straight Opening Night, the Lightning won by a 3-2 score in overtime, the game-winning goal coming from a defenseman.
Last season, Victor Hedman provided the dramatics, scoring 1:11 into the extra frame to defeat the Florida Panthers.
This year, it was Garrison who sent the Amalie Arena sellout crowd home buzzing with his second goal of the night, a clear breakaway during the back-and-forth that he deposited with a backhand past Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason.
The Lightning were part of history Thursday, playing the first 3-on-3 under the NHL’s revamped overtime system. The Bolts also unveiled their brand-new 2014-15 Eastern Conference championship banner to a raucous crowd.
So what can we learn about the 2015-16 version of the Bolts from the season opener? Read ahead for our three biggest takeaways.
1. NEW 3-ON-3 OT FORMAT DRAWS MIXED REVIEWS
The 19,092 who packed Amalie Arena certainly seemed in favor of the end-to-end action the revamped overtime provided.
The buzz inside the building during the three minute, 43 second session was palpable. Fans looked like they were sitting on electrically-charged seats the way they bounced up and down under the seemingly endless wave of Grade A scoring chances.
When Garrison’s shot slipped inside the far post of Mason’s goal to end the frenetic play, the celebration from the crowd matched those from the Bolts’ Stanley Cup Run.
“How do I describe it?” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper asked in his post-game press conference. “Lunacy, that’s basically what it is.”
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop, however, was not a fan.
“I don’t think that’s a better way to finish the game to be honest,” he said. “If that’s what they want to do, we’ll see how it goes…Personally, I think it’s a little unfair.”
Bishop’s reaction is understandable considering he’s the one tasked with stopping the barrage of rapid-fire clean looks.
The history maker Garrison, however, also cast doubt on the new format.
“I don’t like to ride a roller coaster too much with emotions,” he said. “Three-on-three is a little bit like that. It’s chance after chance after chance. It’s a high and a low.”
Cooper, meanwhile, struggled with the overtime, but for a different reason.
“The issue I have with this is as a coach, the players are constantly going up and down, up and down on the bench. You miss half the scoring chances. You try and look through (6-foot-7) Andrej Sustr, (6-foot-6) Victor Hedman. Something’s going on, and they stand up…Another chance goes and they all jump up on the bench and you’re on your tippy toes looking.”
Garrison will get credit for scoring Thursday’s game-winning goal, but Valtteri Filppula made the play of the game to set it up.
And he didn’t even have his stick.
The Lightning forward lost his Bauer underneath the body of Claude Giroux as the Philly captain fell to the ice. With the puck along the boards in the Bolts’ defensive zone and Evgeny Medvedev looking to gain control, the stickless Lightning forward battled the puck away, using his body to box out the Philly defenseman and keep the puck away.
Then, with the puck under his right skate, Filppula flicked a Lionel Messi-like behind-the-back pass into the open ice and toward a pair of Bolts.
From there, Alex Killorn pushed the puck up ahead for Garrison, who sprinted past Jakub Voracek to get in alone and score.
“What an effort,” Cooper said. “Fought through a check and then fought through another check...He stepped on the puck and kicked it behind his back soccer-style, and sent the boys on a breakaway. It was a heck of an effort.”
3. BEN BISHOP IS A PENALTY SHOT HERO
Before Thursday’s season opener, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had only faced one penalty shot in his entire career.
It came last season on October 20 against the Oilers in Edmonton. Taylor Hall faked a wrist shot as he skated toward Bishop, pulled the puck onto his backhand and deposited it underneath Bishop’s left leg into the back of the net to put the Oilers up 2-1 in a game they would eventually win 3-2.
Big Ben redeemed himself against Philadelphia with a pair of penalty shot stops, including a game-saving denial in the 3-on-3 that set up Garrison’s dramatic finish.
Facing a first period penalty shot from Claude Giroux, Bishop was beaten but took a last-ditch swipe with his stick to hook the Philly captain’s stick and keep him from getting a shot off.
Against Scott Laughton in overtime, Bishop didn’t bit on Laughton’s fake shot and kept his left leg on the ice to block his second penalty shot of the evening.
Bishop, making his second career Opening Night shot, saved 23-of-25 shots from the Flyers to pick up where he left off a season ago when he set a Lightning franchise record with 40 wins.
“Very impressive,” Garrison said of Bishop’s performance. “He was our first star tonight for sure. Those penalty shots are huge. Those are big moments in the game.”