Tampa Bay Lightning Open Season With 5-3 Win Over Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena
By Chris Krenn, Tampa Bay Lightning // October 11, 2023
Lightning Next Game: @ Detroit 7 p.m. ET OCt. 14
ABOVE VIDEO: Extended highlights of the Nashville Predators at the Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA BAY, FLORIDA – Hockey is back. All eyes were on the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night when they opened the NHL season with a 5:30 p.m. contest against the Nashville Predators.
With AMALIE Arena sold out for the 331st-consecutive game, the Bolts skated to a 5-3 win over the Predators behind two goals from Nick Paul and Nikita Kucherov, along with a penalty-shot goal from Brandon Hagel.
Tampa Bay jumped on Nashville early, starting the game with a 5-0 shot advantage and getting the game-opening goal from Kucherov 9:48 into the first period. After a clean zone entry allowed Brayden Point to pull up and send the puck to Victor Hedman at the point, Hedman quickly moved it across the zone to Kucherov, who ripped a one-timer past Juuse Saros with Steven Stamkos providing a screen in front. The Lightning finished the first with a 12-2 shot advantage and the 1-0 lead.
Nashville pushed back in the second period and outshot Tampa Bay 13-5, with Ryan O’Reilly tying the game at the 16:15 mark after Filip Forsberg found him on a 2-on-1. The game went into the third period tied at one, with Jonas Johansson making 14 saves on 15 shots through 40 minutes.
The Predators used their momentum and quickly grabbed the 2-1 lead 11 seconds into the third period with O’Reilly forcing a turnover inside the Lightning blue line and sending a pass to Forsberg, who quickly found Juuso Parssinen going to the net before he beat Johansson five hole to give Nashville their first lead of the game.
Tampa Bay quickly punched back 2:14 later with Roman Josi in the penalty box for interference. After Stamkos sent a pass to the slot for Point, a big pileup ensued in front of the net, where Paul was able to find the loose puck and jam it home to tie the game 2-2.
With the score evened up, the Bolts regained the lead just 42 seconds later when Hagel was awarded a penalty shot after getting in all alone on Saros and forcing Luke Schenn to take a holding penalty and concede a penalty shot. Skating up the left boards, Hagel patiently moved in on Saros and fired a shot just over the left pad and into the back of the net to make it 3-2 with 16:53 remaining.
Nashville refused to go away and tied the game once again with Tommy Novak scoring a power-play goal at the 8:48 mark of the third to make it 3-3.
But the decision by the Lightning coaching staff to put Paul on the top power-play unit paid dividends once again with the big forward jumping on a rebound in front and beating Saros for his second power-play goal of the night, giving Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead with 9:08 remaining.
From there, the Bolts and Johansson shut the door, collectively working to prevent Nashville from scoring another tying goal before Kucherov tucked his second goal of the night into the empty net with 1.2 seconds remaining. Johansson finished the night with 28 saves on 31 shots to earn his first win with the Lightning.
After taking a shot off the hand in the second period, Tyler Motte was unable to return for the third period and missed the remainder of the game. Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said the team should know more on Wednesday.