The Tampa Bay Lightning deserved better, but learned a tough lesson against the veteran-laden New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. A buzzer-beating score enabled the Devils to tie the game and eventually win it in the Lightning's albatross—the shootout, spoiling Tampa Bay's home opener.
It was a game of missed chances for the Bolts as they created the symphony that was not music to their offense, clanking several shots of the posts of Martin Brodeur throughout the contest.
The Lightning were downright dominant in the second period of this game, outshooting the Devils 25-9. The 25 shots tied a team record for shots in a period. Had those pesky posts not gotten in the way, they would have broken the record and the game wide open—but that's hockey, folks.
While the loss was tough, you have to hand it to Tampa Bay's last-to-first-round draft picks, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
Hedman was amazing on both sides of the ice. He exerted his physical presence in the defensive zone while seeing the entire ice in the offensive zone. His vision allowed him to connect with Todd Fedoruk for the game-leading goal midway through the third period.
Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos looked strong, physical, fast, and his two blistering one-timers tied the game twice.
Tampa Bay had a big scare in the second period when, during a goal scrum, Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith was hit in the head and cut on the face by a skate. Smith laid on the ice for several minutes, bringing to mind his nasty concussion that ended his season last year.
Smith got patched up and put together a sensational third period and overtime, making several game-saving stops.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock and Tampa Bay leading 3-2, Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger failed to clear the puck down the ice. With just one second left in regulation, Travis Zajac fired the puck past a screened Smith to break Tampa Bay's heart.
Smith would keep the team in the game with several saves in overtime, but as the game transitioned to the shootout, Smith looked terrible when he tried to stop Zach Parise and Jamie Langebrunner. The Lightning's Steven Stamkos would bang one off the post, while Alex Tanguay failed to slip a shot between the pads of Martin Brodeur.
The Lightning fall to 0-1-2, but you can see the confidence of this hockey team growing. They're young and they're going to learn some more tough lessons before this thing is done but sooner or later those pucks will start going in and this team is going to win a lot of games.