Defenseman Mark Barberio, in his first full NHL season and playing for the injured Sami Salo (a late scratch), made a rookie mistake by turning the puck over just about midway through period 1. Then, realizing his mistake, he quickly got back to disrupt Chris Kelly‘s shot. Unfortunately, the referees seemed to think his good, quick thinking play was worthy of a penalty shot. Yes, you heard that right. They basically gifted the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.
Now, that’s not to say the Lightning didn’t shoot themselves numerous times. Barberio’s horrible play came with the team holding a 5-on-3 skater advantage, giving Boston one shorthanded tally. They overcame that, with newly acquired forward Valtteri Filppula smacking one past Tuukka Rask.
Unfortunately, the Lightning couldn’t harness what little momentum they received, instead choosing to waste it. By that, I’m referring to their horrible effort both offensively and defensively during another 5-on-3 opportunity early in the final frame. Literally, the team gave up, allowing Patrice Bergeron to waltz in untouched and fire one past goaltender Anders Lindback. To say that zapped any momentum would be the biggest understatement of this century.
While I realize this marked the team’s first regular season game, and there’s plenty of time to come back strong, Thursday night’s opener almost certainly leaves a horribly bitter taste in many fans mouths because it came against a team they’ve come to loathe over the past few years. Ever since the 2011 Eastern Conference finals to be exact.
It also comes at the hands of a team the Lightning can’t seem to beat for the life of them, something which must change if they have any hopes of remaining competitive within the newly restructured Atlantic Division.
That being said, it’s not time to panic yet. There’s still more than enough firepower offensively, and a slightly improved defense. Power play could use work (that’s a new one), but bottom line this team is better than expected. How much so? I guess we’ll find out Saturday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Depending on what kind of game they bring, the Lightning may or may not have a chance at pulling off the upset. Judging by tonight’s game, I’m not expecting much, but less wasted opportunities could provide hope while snapping their opponents win streak. And that would be huge in more ways than one.