This was supposed to be a day filled with joy for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fans. Star center Steven Stamkos was back, on home ice no less, after missing 45 games with a fractured right tibia, and to the delight of Bolts fans was introduced as the team’s new captain prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Unfortunately that was where the Lightning’s happiness likely ended Thursday night, as Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth seemed to have all the answers in what ended up being a disappointing 3-1 loss.
Not everything was bad though. In fact the team played light years better than they did on their recent road trip, firing over 40 shots on net, including at least a few high quality chances. Unsurprisingly Stamkos had a hand in many of those, though the fact he ended up missing the net isn’t something Lightning fans are used to. Hard to fault him however, especially considering the injury and amount of time missed.
Ryan Callahan, the player acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent former captain Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers Wednesday, also had a solid debut. He definitely helped the penalty kill by blocking shots, laid some good, solid checks and drove the front of the net, all areas in which the Lightning have struggled.
Was it a perfect effort? No. Did the team miss St. Louis? That can certainly be argued, especially seeing the final result. But, all feelings aside, the Lightning showed they’re not willing to give up on anything. Then again, with Stamkos at the helm that much should be a given.