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Why we're watching: Bolts defeat Leafs in Point's season debut

With FOX set to re-air the Lightning's October 10th win over Toronto today, Bryan Burns lists three reasons why it's must-see TV

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

While the NHL is on a temporary break due to the coronavirus, that doesn't mean hockey has to completely go dark.

Throughout the upcoming weeks, FOX Sports Sun will re-air wins from the Tampa Bay Lightning 2019-20 season, those games that became instant classics for Bolts fans. Remember when Victor Hedman scored a power-play goal in his home country during the NHL Global Series games in Stockholm? Or how Lightning rookie forward Carter Verhaeghe recorded a hat trick in a 9-2 rout of the Vancouver Canucks?

Now you can re-live those moments and many more while holed up in your house.

The fun starts Sunday, March 22 at 4 p.m. with the re-broadcast of Tampa Bay's 7-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena during the Bolts' first road trip of the season. The game will also be broadcasted Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Here's why this victory is must-see TV for Lightning fans.

Video: Kucherov, Point lead Lightning to 7-3 victory

Remember during the offseason when Lightning nation was in a panic Brayden Point hadn't re-signed as the season drew closer, and then when he finally was inked to a three-year bridge deal on September 23 - a week-and-a-half before Opening Night - it was revealed the superstar centerman had offseason hip surgery and wouldn't be recovered in time to start the season?

There were plenty of concern Point might not be the same player when he finally got back on the ice, the hip, you know, being a pretty crucial joint for a skater's effectiveness.

Point wasn't scheduled to return until late October.

But by the fourth game of the season, he was ready.

And boy did he alleviate any concerns in that first game back.

Point wasted little time making an impact, scoring the game's opening goal just 2:28 into the contest, backhanding a rebound past Toronto's Frederik Andersen to put the Lightning ahead 1-0.

Point tallied the second assist on Steven Stamkos' game-winning, power-play goal with 43 seconds left in the first period and tacked on a second goal midway through the second period, getting the tip at the net on a beautifully-constructed passing sequence between the Bolts' top line for a 5-3 Tampa Bay advantage, to finish with three points in his season debut.

So much for all that unnecessary offseason worrying.

Video: TBL@TOR: Point nets shot in front to open the scoring

When Brayden Point returned in Toronto, he centered a dynamic line featuring Steven Stamkos to his left and Nikita Kucherov on his right, all players who might someday have their jersey number hanging from the AMALIE Arena rafters.

That trio hadn't really skated too much together previously. When the Lightning tied a NHL record by winning 62 games in 2018-19, Point and Kucherov did a lot of their damage skating together, Kucherov putting up a historic 128 points to produce the highest-scoring season ever for a Russian-born skater in the NHL. But Stamkos was typically on another line, the thought being the Lightning wanted to spread out their top scoring threats across multiple lines.

On this night in Toronto the trio joined forces and proved to be an unstoppable combination, one that the Lightning would turn to later in the season as they began their assent up the NHL standings.

In addition to Point's aforementioned three-point night, Kucherov posted a pair of goals and two assists and Steven Stamkos also recorded a four-point night after producing a goal and three assists, the Bolts' top line accounting for 11 of Tampa Bay's 19 points on the night.

"That line drove the bus for us tonight," head coach Jon Cooper said following the performance.

The Stamkos-Point-Kucherov trio would continue to be the engine for the Lightning later in the season too.

Video: TBL@TOR: Shattenkirk dekes, nets sweet backhander

The Lightning were fortunate to add blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk as a free agent bargain during the offseason when the New York Rangers bought out his contract.

There were questions, however, whether Shattenkirk could still be an effective offensive defenseman in the NHL following two disappointing seasons in the Big Apple.

Those questions abruptly ended following the Toronto game.

With the score tied 2-2 in the first period, Shattenkirk hopped onto a loose puck at the blue line with just Morgan Reilly stopping his progress to goal. Shattenkirk danced around the flat-footed Reilly and then backhanded a shot at the far post past Andersen to put the Bolts back in front 3-2, a supremely gifted goal that announced to the rest of the world he was back.

That goal in Toronto capped a scoring surge by Shattenkirk in which he produced a point in his first four games with the Lightning to start the season.

In 73 games with the Rangers last season, Shattenkirk scored just two goals.

By game No. 4 with the Lightning, he'd already surpassed that total, punctuated by this beauty against the Leafs.

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