The 2021-2022 NHL season has officially commenced. Yesterday the defending Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning hosted Pittsburgh to inaugurate the season. There was also a Western Conference matchup between Las Vegas and Seattle.
Pittsburgh defeats reigning champs
Not our night.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 13, 2021
2020-2021 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay were struck with a 6-2 blow by the Penguins last night. The blowout came as a surprise since Pittsburgh was without forwards Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Zach Aston-Reese and Evgeni Malkin. The team was also without defenseman Mike Matheson.
The game opened with both teams going scoreless in the first period. The Penguins soon took control of the game scoring just 12 seconds into the second period. Pittsburgh’s aggression is what largely contributed to their dominant performance. Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 34-25 and blocked 15 shots.
The Lightning placed themselves on the board midway into the third period when Anthony Cirelli scored a goal assisted by Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay’s final goal would be scored by Alex Killorn with assistance from Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos two minutes later.
New Era in Tampa Bay
Yesterday’s game commenced after the raising of Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Banner. Their second championship after winning it all in the 2019-2020 season. Prior to the game, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper spoke about the ceremony and said the moment was for the fans. A moment that wasn’t possible early on in the pandemic.
Cooper also spoke about the new era in Tamp Bay. After two shortened seasons in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, this is the first 82-game season since 2018-2019. The new season is also operating with full crowds in the stadium. Last night over 19,000 fans were in attendance at Amalie Arena. Cooper said that the team being able to travel and play in front of fans has opened up a new era.
The NHL itself is hopeful that the league is in a new era. This is the first time since 2004 the NHL has been broadcasted on ESPN. The seven-year deal was announced in March and includes 25 regular-season games, early-round playoff series and one conference final each year, four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC and more than 1,000 games per season streaming on ESPN+.
The new era in Tampa Bay also includes some new faces. In the offseason Tampa picked up free agents Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Zach Bogosian and Brian Elliott. Despite having to integrate several new players, coach Cooper said that the teams identity won’t change.
The Lightnings quest to hit a three peat championship run continues Thursday as they head to Detroit for a divisional matchup against the Red Wings. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.