One night after the Tampa Bay Rays season ended in Boston, the Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off the 2021-22 season at Amalie Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was a night to celebrate. Another banner would be raised commemorating another Stanley Cup Championship, their third in franchise history.
You would think the Lightning would be fired up and motivated after raising another championship banner; moreover, that the Lightning couldn’t wait to get back out on the ice and begin the quest to win a third straight Stanley Cup.
You would be wrong.
The Lightning came out flatter than two flat tires on Chase Elliott’s race car. The Penguins dominated in the season opener, beating the Penguins 6-2.
At times it looked as if the Lightning would rather be anywhere else than on the ice trying to win a hockey game.
The Lightning has played bad games before. But I don’t recall a game in which they were outplayed so bad by a team missing all of their star players.
The Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel. And still managed to blow out the Lightning at home 6-2.
The Lightning were fully healthy, but not much went right against the Penguins.
Steven Stamkos summed it up perfectly, saying, “It was a dud.”
The Young Pens played better defense, won the battle for loose pucks, and created better scoring chances in the season opener.
Not a lot went right for the Lightning in this game. Coach Jon Cooper talked about the competitive level of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the end, they beat us to every puck. They worked harder than us. They were better than us in every facet of the game. If it weren’t for our goalie, it probably would have been way worse. They came here to win a hockey game. We came here and watched the banner raising and then watched a team want to win a hockey game.
The Lightning defensively struggled to get it going all night as they allowed the Pens to move the puck at will. The Bolts couldn’t muster much offensively, letting the Penguins dominate puck possession and offensive-zone time.
Former Lightning and fan-favorite Brian Boyle, signed by Pittsburgh earlier in the day, notched his first goal of the season in the second period as the Penguins built a 2-0 lead.
Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn had the lone goals for the Lightning, both goals coming in the third period.
The Lightning will quickly put this behind them as they play in Detroit against the Red Wings on Thursday night. The Bolts will play in Washington against the Capitals on Saturday.
–Earlier in the week, the Lightning announced the signing of head coach Jon Cooper to a three-year contract extension through the 2024-25 season.
GM Julien BriseBois called Cooper the best man for the job:
Unequivocally, Coop is the best person for the job. He is a great leader, spokesperson, and ambassador for our organization. We are lucky to have him as our head coach, and I very much look forward to our continued partnership.
Cooper has a record of 383-187-53 in nine years as Lightning coach, winning two Stanley Cups.
Cooper is looking forward to continuing to build on the culture that he has made in Tampa:
It has been a tremendous honor to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the past eight-plus seasons. And I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to build on what we have here. My family and I love the organization, and being a part of the Tampa Bay community, it is our home. I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Mr. Vinik, Julien, Steve Griggs, the rest of the coaching staff, and all the players for making this one of the best jobs in the NHL.