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Burns: Three things from a season-opening win

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 6-4 win over the Red Wings

by Bryan Burns /

If the remaining 81 games of the regular season are anything like game No. 1, Tampa Bay Lightning fans may need to bring a defibrillator to games from now on.

Thursday's season opener had a bit of everything. Both goalies stood on their heads at times; both goalies let in soft goals at others. Newly-acquired players showed their value, like Detroit's Thomas Vanek when he netted the Red Wings' first two goals. Veterans like Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula got on the score sheet too.

The Lightning scored three (THREE!) power-play goals.

There were fights. Multiple fights. The Tampa Bay-Detroit rivalry continues to boil as one of the more underrated in the NHL.

We saw Jonathan Drouin show off his shooting and passing skills.

Brayden Point, making his NHL debut, looked like he's here to stay.

And we got to hear Johnny B. Goode for the go-ahead goal. 

Pack your bags Lightning fans, it's going to be a long trip through the regular season.

I, for one, can't wait.

Three Things from an action-packed season opener:


The Lightning's power play was a head scratcher for the majority of the 2015-16 season.

The Bolts had plenty of skilled, offensively-gifted players capable of making the special teams unit a strength.

Instead, they languished, scoring at just a 15.8 percent conversion rate, tied for 26th in the NHL.

Something had to change.

Enter Todd Richards.

The veteran head coach came to Tampa Bay to fill the assistant coach role vacated by Steve Thomas. During training camp, he had his fingerprints all over the power play.

On Thursday, we saw why.

Down 2-0, when the Lightning needed a spark, the power play provided it, Jonathan Drouin sniping a shot from the right dot to cut the deficit to one. Later, Johnson scored four seconds into a third-period power play, redirecting Steven Stamkos' feed past Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek for the game-winning goal. Alex Killorn added the Bolts' third power-play marker later in the third.

The Lightning scored three power play goals just twice last season (once against Columbus in the regular season on Dec. 26; once against Detroit in Game 4 of a First Round playoff series).

There weren't a ton of adjustments made to the power play during the offseason, but the tweaks and ideas Richards brought to the special teams unit were evident.

"You know I don't think it's that different," Drouin said about the revamped power play. "It's similar in set up, but I think it's just we're bringing more shots to the net, more traffic, and just passing the puck more."

Johnson said anytime you can score six goals in the NHL, it's a big deal.

The power play provided three of those goals.

That's a big deal too.

"We talked about it, and we had to have better execution," Johnson said. "It wasn't acceptable how we did last season, and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight. Hopefully we can keep the momentum, keep learning from our mistakes, and keep getting better."


Video: DET@TBL: Killorn redirects PPG on feed from Drouin

Last season, Cedric Paquette labored through a plethora of injuries and scored just six goals a year after netting 12.

Tyler Johnson admitted during training camp that his wrist was injured all last season and never fully healed until July of this summer, explaining why his production was down as well.

With both of those players 100 percent again on Opening Night, their value to the Lightning was on full display once again.

Down 3-1, Paquette threw a puck at the net from a sharp angle and snuck it past Mrazek to start the Bolts comeback.

Johnson effectively ended it with his power-play tapper that proved to be the game-winner.

"I thought he was contributing, doing things, hitting, just kind of being a little pest out there, and that's kind of his game," Johnson said of Paquette's performance. "Last year was a tough little go, and I was right there with him. So, for him to come out and play as well as he did, that's huge."

It's also huge that Paquette and Johnson are healthy again because it makes the Lightning's already stacked forward group that much more potent.


Video: DET@TBL: Drouin snipes power-play goal off crossbar

Jonathan Drouin was one of the Lightning's best players in the 2016 postseason, scoring five goals, including four in the Eastern Conference Final, and adding nine assists.

The 21-year-old appears to have picked up where he left off to start the 2016-17 season.

With the Lightning trailing 2-0, Drouin gave the Bolts a much-needed lift, sniping a shot from the right dot that whistled over the glove of Mrazek and kissed the crossbar before resting in the back of the net. 

"He's very offensively gifted," Johnson said. "He can make some plays. That shot he had was unbelievable."

Later in the game, with the Lightning looking to close the door on a victory, Drouin engineered the Bolts' third power-play goal, holding the puck along the right wing before spotting Alex Killorn streaking toward the back post and hitting him with a perfectly-placed pass for Killorn to tap into the net.

"That power play unit kind of goes through him," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "He and Kuch can interchange both sides and work it. His vision, you know, the game's slowed down for Jo now. You just look at that pass. He was on the opposite side when he made that pass to Killorn at the end. The kid's got wonderful vision on the ice, and he competed hard. I thought he had a heck of a game tonight. When you got two units you can roll out there and they're both dangerous, it's pretty potent. Sometimes a team just has one big unit and they go to a second unit. I feel, regardless of who we throw out there, it's a pretty dangerous group."

The Lightning power play is suddenly dangerous again.

And Jonathan Drouin is a big reason why. 

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