TAMPA — There were nerves, Yanni Gourde admitted, and even missed opportunities early in his NHL playoff debut.
But two minutes into the second period, the Lightning rookie got his first postseason goal on a power play, and he added a key steal and assist in the third period to help the Lightning to a 5-2 win in Thursday's playoff opener against New Jersey.
"Yanni Gourde was being Yanni Gourde. He's not afraid to go anywhere on the ice," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's a little waterbug out there. He's hard on pucks. He's quick on pucks. The big thing is he's right around the net."
Just seven minutes into the game, Gourde had a breakaway and made a move to beat Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, but the puck came off his stick and a goal got away. His power-play goal, just 1:54 into the second period, took the last of the butterflies away, and his assist in the third helped put the game out of reach.
"It was fun to get the first one out of the way in the first game," Gourde said. "Once you get your first shift in, it's just hockey. I let everything behind and just went out and played hockey."
Ondrej Palat had the opening goal and an assist on two others, but he said the line of Gourde, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn was the Lightning's best unit Thursday night.
"Huge. I think they were our best line. They were all over," Palat said. "That line was great."
Gourde said the Lightning set the tone for the series — he and Cirelli got their first taste of the playoffs together and now want to build on that the rest of the way.
"We played really simple — we went on the forecheck and we worked," Gourde said. "If we do that, I think our line can be a success. Maybe it doesn't happen every night, but we have to keep the work ethic."
Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.