Two things became clear in the Lightning’s season opening victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. First, as was the case last year, the Lightning know that most games are going to be close, hard-fought affairs. This one certainly was. Second, three-on-three overtime is wildly entertaining. Fortunately for the Lightning, they were the ones to pick up the extra point when Jason Garrison scored on a breakaway in OT.
For most of regulation, this game was an even contest, punctuated by stellar goaltending from Ben Bishop and Philadelphia’s Steve Mason. In the first period, both teams generated some terrific scoring chances, but couldn’t finish. Bishop made a handful of point-blank saves on Philly’s top line of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl. He also forced a Giroux attempt wide of the net when the Flyers captain was awarded a penalty shot. Mason’s best first period save came on a rebound – he denied Tyler Johnson with a lunging blocker save.
The Lightning broke the scoreless tie early in the second. Jason Garrison wristed a high shot from the right point past a screened Mason. The Bolts gained momentum from the tally and had several opportunities to add to the lead. Ondrej Palat was stopped on a breakaway on the shift after the Garrison goal. Later in the frame, Tyler Johnson and Palat failed to convert a two-on-one rush. The Lightning also created some dangerous looks during a power play, but could not add to their lead. The Bolts posted the first six shots of the period and held the Flyers without a shot for more than half the frame. But that first Philadelphia shot went in. After forcing a turnover in the Lightning d-zone, R.J. Umberger, Scott Laughton and Matt Read executed a quick passing play. Read finished from the slot to tie the score. Shortly thereafter, the Flyers earned a power play and grabbed the lead. Brayden Schenn converted a rebound following a hard point shot from Evgeny Medvedev. The two Flyers goals came less than two minutes apart and that stretch was the roughest in the period for the Lightning. But the Lightning managed to get the game tied again before the period ended. During a Tampa Bay power play in the closing minutes, Ryan Callahan swept in a rebound from the side of the net. It was a crucial goal, one that allowed the Lightning to enter the third period tied instead of trailing.
As a whole, the Lightning outplayed the Flyers in the second. They outshot their opponents, 13-3, and had the better scoring chances. But the Flyers were the more dangerous team in the third. While the teams combined for only 10 total shots, the Flyers enjoyed more of the puck possession and shot attempts. Bishop’s two best saves in the period came on a Voracek rebound chance during an early third period Philly power play and later on a Sean Couturier high wrister off the rush.
This game was the first this season in the NHL to head to overtime, which now features three-on-three play for five minutes. The session only lasted 2:17, but the teams combined for eight shots. Mason made two point-blank saves on Anton Stralman and later, two other stops on Nikita Kucherov and Johnson. Bishop stopped a chance off the rush for Brayden Schenn moments after the Stralman chances. Then, just after Mason made the save on Johnson, Laughton was awarded a penalty shot. Just as he did against Giroux in the first period, Bishop kept the puck out – he stopped the Laughton attempt with his left pad. On the ensuing shift, Voracek nearly stuffed in an attempt as he walked in front out of the right corner, but Bishop posted his third OT save. It was the last one he’d need to make. With the puck still in the Lightning d-zone, Valtteri Filppula forced the puck up the boards and Alex Killorn sprung Garrison on a breakaway. Garrison tucked a backhander between Mason’s pads to win the game for the Ligthning.
Just like last year’s opening night win over the Florida Panthers, the Lightning won, 3-2, in OT. Last year, Victor Hedman netted the game-winner. Once more, a defenseman provided the winning goal. It was an important win to open the season, as the Lightning will play 11 of their next 15 on the road. Three of those come on the upcoming trip, which begins Saturday afternoon in Buffalo.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Garrison’s OT winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Jason Garrison – Lightning. First career two-goal game. OT winner.
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 23 saves. Denied two penalty shot attempts.
3.R.J. Umberger – Flyers. Two assists.