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Home cooking: Lightning home openers through the years

Bryan Burns breaks down some fun facts with the Bolts set to host Florida in their home opener on Oct. 6

by Bryan Burns /

On Friday, Oct. 6, the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Florida Panthers in their 2017-18 season home opener.

The Lightning have had pretty good success in home openers throughout their 24 seasons of play, going 14-7-1 with two ties. The Bolts currently own a five-game win streak in home openers, the longest consecutive home opener victory streak in franchise history.

Let's take a look back at some of the more memorable Lightning home openers through the years.

Making history: The Lightning own the distinction of playing in and winning the first 3-on-3 overtime in NHL history. Prior to the 2015-16 season, the league instituted new overtime rules whereby teams would play five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime followed by a shootout if no goal was scored in the extra session.

On October 8, 2015, the Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers were the first teams to put the new format on display. After playing to a 2-2 draw through 60 minutes, the Lightning and Flyers engaged in a frenetic, back-and-forth chase for the winning goal, culminating in Jason Garrison's breakaway winner to give the Bolts a 3-2 victory and forever make Garrison the answer to a trivia question.

Fun fact: In years the Lightning have advanced to the Conference Finals (2004, 2011, 2015 and 2016), they've won their home opener each time.

Most commonly played opponent: Counting this season's lid-lifter, the Lightning will have faced the Florida Panthers five times and the New York Islanders four times in home openers. The Bolts took on the Isles in four-consecutive home openers from 1998-2001 and have squared off against the Panthers in three of the last six home openers.

Best performance: No question, Chris Kontos' heroic four-goal effort in the first-ever game in Tampa Bay franchise history will go down as not only one of the top performances in a home opener but one of the best showings in any game for a Lightning player. Kontos remains one of only two Bolts - Marty St. Louis (Jan. 18, 2014 vs. San Jose) is the other - to score four goals in a single game.

Lightning leading home opener goal scorer: That distinction belongs to current Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has scored eight of his 321 career regular season goals in home openers. Stamkos netted a hat trick in the 2013 home opener, a 7-2 win over the Florida Panthers, and has scored multiple goals in three separate home openers.

Who's scored the second-most goals for Tampa Bay in home openers? Vincent Lecavalier holds that honor with six. Martin St. Louis is third with five goals in home openers.

None of these names should come as a surprise considering Lecavalier (383), St. Louis (365) and Stamkos rank one, two, and three, respectively, on the Lightning's all-time goal scoring list.

When a home opener isn't really a home opener: The Lightning started the 2008-09 season in Prague, playing the New York Rangers in back-to-back games at the O2 Arena. In front of 17,085, the Lightning fell 2-1 to the Rangers on October 4, 2008 in what was technically considered the Bolts' home opener. A night later, the Rangers again downed the Lightning by the same 2-1 score in the Rangers' home opener away from home.

Fun fact II: Current Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin scored for Tampa Bay in the first game the Lightning ever played, a 7-3 win over Chicago on October 7, 1992 at Expo Hall. Bergevin, a defenseman, played parts of four seasons with Tampa Bay (1992-95, 2002-03) and tallied five goals and 36 points over 206 games with the Bolts.

Goal differential: The Lightning own a plus-26 goal differential in home openers, outscoring opponents 89-63. The Bolts have scored seven goals in two separate home openers (1992 and 2013) and have hit the six-goal mark in two more (2012, 2016).

Video: DET@TBL: Johnson redirects PPG, puts Bolts on top

Power surge: Of the 89 goals the Lightning have scored in home openers, 34 of them, or 38 percent, have come on the power play.

Additionally, on seven separate occasions, the Lightning have scored three power-play goals in home openers (1992, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2012, 2014 and 2016).

Fun fact III: In the 2012 season opener, the Lightning defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-4 behind a pair of goals from Ryan Malone and markers from Matt Carle, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Tom Pyatt. The losing goaltender in the opposing net? None other than Ben Bishop, who would go on to be traded to the Lightning later in the season.

Sellouts: The Lightning have sold out 18 of their 24 home openers, including the last seven in a row.

Shutouts: The Lightning have been shut out twice in home openers, losing 2-0 to Florida in 1993 and 2-0 to the New York Islanders in 1998. Tampa Bay has never shut out an opponent in a home opener, a dubious stat Andrei Vasilevskiy will no doubt look to correct when the Bolts hit the ice for the 2017-18 home opener.

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