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What an opening night! It wasn’t pretty on the ice early on as the team admittedly shook of some jitters and rust, but Johan Holmqvist held things together long enough for the Lightning offense to start clicking. In what may have been one of his best performances for the Lightning, Holmqvist made some huge saves in the first and second periods and controlled his rebounds all evening long. Timing seemed to be an issue for the Lightning until a few minutes into the second period, when the defense started to settle down and the forwards got their rhythm.
Chris Gratton may have tried too hard at times last night but his fight at the end of the game while sticking up for his teammates is the type of thing that gets noticed in the locker room. John Tortorella made reference to it after the game, and while he wasn’t enamored with the fact Gratton decided to risk his injured eye in the bout with David Clarkson, he said Gratton showed he’ll do anything he can to help this team win.
The Lecavalier-St. Louis-Prospal line struggled to get involved for the first half of the game, then it took over. I challenge anyone to name a more dangerous line in the NHL. It’s great to see Lecavalier and St. Louis start where they left off last season, but in my mind the best part was seeing Prospal have immediate success. What do you think Martin Brodeur thought to himself when he committed himself to blocking Prospal’s passing lane on the game-winner, only to see Vaclav’s blind back-hander slide in front of the gaping net toward the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner?
Matt Smaby and Mike Lundin looked like rookies in the first period, but by the second period they were NHL defensemen. Lundin especially appeared more and more comfortable as the game wore one, and Tortorella hinted post-game that the rookie out of Maine could find himself in the Lightning’s top-four if he continues to progress.
Paul Ranger threw the hit of the game in the first period when Rodney Pelley turned into him to go shoulder-to-shoulder in the corner. Ranger was penalized for interference on the play.
While the big guns worked out the kinks early, the line of Gratton (sometimes Craig MacDonald), Andre Roy and Nick Tarnasky put together some fantastic shifts and created some great scoring chances. If the goaltender at the other end had any name other than Brodeur, Gratton likely would’ve scored.
John Tortorella considers having his finger on the pulse of the team to be perhaps his most important job as head coach. After reviewing the game tape last night, Tortorella decided that a tough, vocal 45-minutes session on the ice was needed today, followed by a 45-minute video session. The coach clearly wasn’t happy with how many battles were lost along the boards last night.
“The most important job of a coach and a coaching staff is to understand, and make the players understand, how they played,” Tortorella said. “There are quite a few things we need to work on. They again showed their resiliency in finding a way to win, but it wasn’t at all pretty in a lot of ways.
“We found a way and I'm happy about that, but we want to be more consistent on the puck. Simplifying things was a key to us winning the game.
“They weren't browbeaten today, they were taught today.”