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Birthday boy Yanni Gourde excited to make Lightning debut

Yanni Gourde, right, in his NHL debut with the Lightning, chases a puck along with defenseman Frank Corrado — himself making his Maple Leafs debut after being claimed from the Canucks.

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Yanni Gourde, right, in his NHL debut with the Lightning, chases a puck along with defenseman Frank Corrado — himself making his Maple Leafs debut after being claimed from the Canucks.

TORONTO — LW Yanni Gourde will have a hard time topping Tuesday's 24th birthday.

Gourde made his NHL debut for the Lightning against the Maple Leafs, capping a journey in which he played in the ECHL and AHL. The best part was that his wife, Marie, along with his mother and two brothers, were there to see it.

Gourde showed some nerves, taking an interference penalty in his first shift, logging 6:55 of ice time. But he also had his first NHL assist on Mike Blunden's third-period goal that tied it at 3.

"A big day for me," Gourde said. "It was awesome. I enjoyed every moment."

Gourde had to play, with Tampa Bay down to 11 healthy forwards, with LW Joel Vermin (hand) out indefinitely after getting hurt Monday night.

Tampa Bay made no additional callups Tuesday. RW Erik Condra (lower body) skated on his own for the second consecutive day, but his status for Friday's game in Washington is unknown.

On rise: Few Lightning players saw their stars rise more in the playoffs than LW Alex Killorn.

Killorn, 26, delivered a breakout performance, with nine goals and nine assists, and was a force playing alongside captain Steven Stamkos. Killorn even put himself on the radar for Canada's World Cup team, good timing considering he'll be a restricted free agent this summer.

But Killorn, with four goals in 31 games this season, insists he wants to be more productive. Yet he has come on strong recently and was one of the team's best forwards in the past couple of games. He racked up six shots Saturday against Washington, and set up the winning goal Monday with a slick pass to Brian Boyle on a shorthanded 2-on-1.

"Killer was outstanding," coach Jon Cooper said. "He was powerful at both ends of the rink, he really commanded the puck, he protected well, got everybody involved. If you're going to talk hockey gods, he earned that."

Killorn, at 6 feet 2, 198 pounds, is a rare power forward on the Lightning roster. While his pass to Boyle made the highlights, Killorn's hard work behind the play set up the rush. That's how he said he can make an impact.

"It's been tough for everyone scoring-wise and it just keeps mounting and mounting," he said. "Our team has kept it simple, and for myself I try to work hard and the harder you work, the more you're going to get rewarded."

Just business: F Jonathan Marchessault, a former Blue Jacket who played his first two NHL games with Columbus in 2012-13, said there were no added emotions in scoring a goal against them Monday night. "I played two games there, but except that, it was just business as usual," Marchessault said. He has three goals in 14 games since his callup, forcing his way onto the roster. "This is what I wanted to do," Marchessault said. "To have a few games in a row and be able to show off what I can do. I'm pretty happy overall how things have been going lately, hope it can go the same way."

In net: G Andrei Vasilevskiy started for Tampa Bay.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Birthday boy Yanni Gourde excited to make Lightning debut 12/15/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 11:29pm]
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