TAMPA — Tyler Johnson said there have't been many changes to the power play.
There's a new voice in assistant coach Todd Richards, who runs drills in practice.
But it's the new guy who is running the show on the ice: wing Jonathan Drouin, who could be the biggest difference-maker in the much-maligned unit, and hence, the Lightning's shot at a Stanley Cup.
Drouin proved that with a dazzling display in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Red Wings on opening night at Amalie Arena. With a goal and an assist on the power play, Drouin helped buoy a three-goal performance by the unit, which ranked 28th in the league last season.
The Lightning scored more than two power-play goals in a game just once last season.
Drouin had the third-most ice time among forwards, 18:58, behind Johnson and Alex Killorn.
"The game has slowed down for Jo," coach Jon Cooper said. "That kid has got wonderful vision on the ice. He had a heck of a game."
Drouin wasn't the only one who did. Cedric Paquette's two-point night — one point more than he had in 17 playoff games last season — sparked Tampa Bay's comeback from a two-goal deficit. Brian Boyle scored the tying goal, giving the Lightning two goals from its bottom six. Victor Hedman had two assists in another monster 24-minute game. Goalie Ben Bishop closed the door, becoming the franchise's all-time saves leader, passing Daren Puppa.
But it is Drouin, positioned on the side wall, who gives the Lightning the power-play quarterback it has needed. It's a familiar spot for Drouin, who was a fixture there in juniors. "That's where I like to be," he said.
From that spot, Drouin stepped into the right circle and ripped a laser over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek to bring Tampa Bay within 2-1 midway through the second. "That was pretty unbelievable," Johnson said.
Johnson scored the go-ahead goal with a power-play goal of his own in the third, a nifty redirection of a pass from Steven Stamkos, who received the largest ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,092 during introductions.
Drouin set up the eventual winner, though, a diagonal pass right on the stick of Killorn.
"He's very offensively gifted, there's no doubt," Johnson said of Drouin. "He can make some plays. When he's going … he's helping us make a difference. He has that confidence, moving it around, playing huge."
This one was far from perfect. The Lightning was at times sloppy in its zone, gift-wrapping two goals for Detroit with turnovers. "We gave them two goals," Cooper said. Bishop, who bailed out the Lightning so often last season, gave up a juicy rebound on the Red Wings' third goal. Detroit scored twice on its first five shots, putting Tampa Bay in an early hole. Kucherov, one of the game's top young scorers, missed the net on a second-period breakaway.
But the power play for once helped save the day.
"We have been working a lot on it in the preseason," Johnson said. "We talked about it. We had to have better execution. It wasn't acceptable what we did last season. I thought we did a pretty good job (Thursday)."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Detroit, Vanek 1 (Nielsen, Zetterberg), 3:12. 2, Detroit, Vanek 2 (Nyquist), 8:26. Penalties—Coburn, TB, (holding), 2:40; Dekeyser, DET, (interference), 3:39; Ott, DET, (slashing), 5:26.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Drouin 1 (Hedman, Killorn), 7:23. 4, Detroit, Nielsen 1 (Larkin, Green), 8:18. 5, Tampa Bay, Paquette 1, 13:05. Penalties—Green, DET, (hooking), 6:10; Sustr, TB, Major (fighting), 14:30; Smith, DET, Major (fighting), 14:30; Coburn, TB, (roughing), 14:30; Ott, DET, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:30; Ott, DET, (roughing), 14:30; Coburn, TB, (roughing), 14:30; Larkin, DET, (hooking), 18:43.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Boyle 1 (Paquette), 3:17. 7, Tampa Bay, Johnson 1 (Stamkos, Palat), 8:34. 8, Tampa Bay, Killorn 1 (Hedman, Drouin), 16:50. 9, Detroit, Dekeyser 1 (Helm, Green), 17:55. 10, Tampa Bay, Filppula 1, 18:39. Penalties—Detroit bench, served by Tatar (too many men on the ice), 8:29; Garrison, TB, (hooking), 13:24; Palat, TB, Major (fighting), 13:24; Ericsson, DET, Major (fighting), 13:24; Ericsson, DET, (instigator), 13:24; Ericsson, DET, Misconduct (misconduct), 13:24; Nesterov, TB, (holding), 13:57; Detroit bench, served by Vanek (too many men on the ice), 16:23. Shots on Goal—Detroit 9-12-14—35. Tampa Bay 5-12-15—32. Power-play opportunites—Detroit 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 3 of 6. Goalies—Detroit, Mrazek 0-1-0 (35 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 1-0-0 (32-28). A—19,092 (19,204). T—2:56. Referees—Dave Jackson, Tim Nowak, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Brad Kovachik.