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Lightning open season by defeating Capitals, 6-3

by Lonnie Herman /

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't generate a shot on goal until more than six minutes had gone by in the opening period, but their first one was a sign of things to come.

Eric Brewer connected on his team's first shot for the first of his two goals as the Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals 6-3 in their season opener at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

Washington did battle back three times to tie the game, but Tampa Bay scored three unanswered goals in the third period to put the game away.

Martin St. Louis scored two goals, including a power-play tally in the third that proved to be the game-winner, and Cory Conacher, skating in his NHL debut, had a goal and an assist. Teddy Purcell assisted on all three third-period goals and Vincent Lecavalier had a multi-point game with a goal and an assist.

"I think Lecavalier was unbelievable tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "He scored, he had the hardest hit of the night, he won 18 of 24 faceoffs and led the team defensively in the third period. You can't ask more of a captain than that."

Washington pushed back each time the Lightning edged ahead behind two goals by Joel Ward and a score by Wojtek Wolski.

The Capitals began the game with three consecutive power plays, but were able to convert on only one, when Ward scored at 8:25.

"It's weird to have three power plays to start the game and it's not what you really want because you want all your guys going and into the flow," said Adam Oates, who made his debut as Washington coach. "We had our chances, but we made a lot of little mistakes."

Alex Ovechkin, skating on right wing instead of his accustomed spot on the left, produced four shots in the opening period but was held without a shot on net for the remainder of the night.

Boosted by those early extra-man opportunities, the Capitals outshot the Lightning 17-8 in the first period, but Anders Lindback, making his debut for Tampa Bay between the pipes, kept the Lightning in the game. Lindback stopped 27 shots on the way to the win.

"He made key saves," Boucher said. "He made key saves that were the difference maker for us."

For Conacher, skating on a line with Lecavalier and Purcell, his debut was a magical night.

"This was the best day of my life," Conacher said. "I'm not married yet, but for sure this is a dream come true. Just to be at camp was a dream come true and to be in the same locker room with guys I have idolized all my life is amazing. It's very awesome."

"He fits right in," Boucher said. "This guy is ready. It's not a project, he's ready to go. His speed, he made some terrific plays, scored a goal and deserved it."

The game remained close until the final period when Tampa Bay dominated in every aspect, out-shooting the Capitals 13-7 and converting two of three power-play chances.

"I'm not surprised," Boucher said. "That's the best we could do with only six days to prepare and I'm real impressed. This was a pressure game. We wanted to please our fans – it's all about the fans and the players wanted to give it back."

With the win, the Lightning have now won their last three season openers and improved their opening-night record to 12-6-2 overall.

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