Lightning raise banner for fans, beat Predators 6-3
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning raised their 2020 Stanley Cup banner and beat the Nashville Predators 6-3 on Saturday night.
Tyler Johnson and Blake Coleman each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning. Alex Killorn, Brayden Point, Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli also scored. Erik Cernak and Ondrej Palat had two assists apiece.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots to earn his NHL-leading 17th win.
Erik Haula, Alexandre Carrier and Yakov Trenin scored for the Predators, who fell to 1-5-1 in their past seven games. Pekka Rinne made 21 saves.
With a maximum crowd of 3,800 in attendance, the Lightning hoisted their 2020 championship banner to the rafters and jumped to a three-goal lead.
“It was awesome … 3,800 and it felt almost like a sold-out building to me,’’ Coleman said. “You could feel the energy, the excitement of having people back and their excitement being around the team again. I know for me personally seeing that banner go up brought it all back, a big wave of feelings.’’
Johnson opened the scoring, sliding along the ice before tapping in a pass from Cernak at 6:55 of the first period. Joseph made it 2-0 with 1:25 left with a slap shot from the right circle for his sixth of the season.
Killorn tapped in a shot-pass from Palat for a power-play goal to make it 3-0 at 2:24 of the second.
“They’re vibing right now, and it’s big because they are winning faceoffs and get puck possession, that adds to it,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the power play. “You have your retrievals and shooting pucks and making plays, so they are getting rewarded.”
Trenin cut it to 3-1 with a wrist shot from the left circle at 12:02 but Point, celebrating his 25th birthday, answered at 18:48 as he cut high across before sending a wrist shot to the opposite post.
“You don’t defend that,’’ Coleman said. “He’s just another level of special when he’s carrying the puck up the ice. You have 15 NHL players on the bench kicking each other saying, `Did you see that?’ … You know you have special talent.’’
Nashville shaved the deficit to one with Carrier’s first career goal as the trailer on a 3-on-2 rush at 3:17 of the third and Haula’s power-play goal at 5:03.
“Good to see Alex get his first goal,” Haula said. “We have a lot of injuries and a lot of young guys are getting a chance to play and they are making the most of it.”
Coleman restored a two-goal advantage with a backhand from the low slot at 10:02. Cirelli added an empty-net goal with 1:34 remaining.
“I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of the game. We just have to clean up some of these mistakes at key times,’’ Nashville coach John Hynes said. “It was a one-goal game and we have a mental error going back in defensive zone coverage.’’
Former NHL MVP Nikita Kucherov made a surprise appearance on the ice with the Lightning during the morning skate. Kucherov is recovering from hip surgery in December that is expected to keep him out for at least the remainder of the regular season.
“Kuch is a big part of our team, so anytime we can have him around, it’s great for us being able to see progress is being made,’’ Cooper said. “He’s starting to feel a little bit better. Is he far away from doing the things he usually does out there? Yes.’’
Nashville started the day with seven players on injured reserve, including captain Roman Josi, goaltender Juuse Saros, center Matt Duchene and defenseman Ryan Ellis, while defenseman Dante Fabbro served the second game of a two-game suspension. Before the game, the Predators added defenseman Mark Borowiecki to the list, announcing he would be out week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Nashville activated defensemen Frederic Allard, Ben Harpur and Carrier from the taxi squad, with Allard making his NHL debut.
The teams play again on Monday afternoon.
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By ERIK ERLENDSSON