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Yanni Gourde gets goal, assist to help Lightning in his playoff debut

Tampa Bay rookie misses early, but comes through with power-play goal, then key assist in third period.
Lightning rookie Yanni Gourde, right, celebrates his goal with Ondrej Palat in Thursday's 5-2 win against the Devils.
(DIRK SHADD -- TIMES)
Lightning rookie Yanni Gourde, right, celebrates his goal with Ondrej Palat in Thursday's 5-2 win against the Devils. (DIRK SHADD -- TIMES)
Published Apr. 13, 2018
Updated Apr. 13, 2018

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."

Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (37) attempts to slide the puck into the open net as New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid (1), right, and New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy (12) attempt to block him out during the first period. The puck dribbled wide, just missing the goal. (Dirk Shadd, Times)

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."

Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (37) waves to the fans as he is named the No. 1 star of the game after a 5-2 victory over the Devils. (Dirk Shadd, Times)

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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