1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning hit the right notes on opening celebration

More slap shots: Did you know Tyler Johnson studied anesthesiology? Why is Steven Stamkos playing wing?
On opening night at Amalie Arena, the Lightning didn't go overboard on the pageantry. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 5
Updated Oct. 5

Jon Cooper figures the season opener is matched by only one game in terms of excitement, and that’s the opening night of the playoffs.

He might be on to something.

The home opener is a chance for teams to put on a show in a way most taems don’t do outside the playoffs (unless we’re talking about Vegas, but that’s another conversation). The Lightning found a good balance of theatrics without going overboard in Thursday’s opener against the Panthers at Amalie Arena.

MORE LIGHTNING: Carter Verhaeghe will always remember his debut, but he’s also glad it’s over

They showed a couple of videos while fans streamed into the stands before warmups (including their overdramatic Steven Stamkos commercial) but didn’t blow them out. There was a countdown on the video board (but not over the public-address system) to players coming out for warmups.

One video about overcoming the playoff failure of last season was shown before the team was introduced (the video also was a little overdramatic, but there’s something to be said for the Lightning owning their collapse), then the players took over. They skated onto the ice through a video-board portal with some light effects. It wasn’t too much, and most of the volume was natural from fans.

There were just enough effects while still making the players the focus and the fans the ones adding the celebratory feel.

Quick hits with Tyler Johnson

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) and left wing Pat Maroon (14) celebrate Maroon's goal during the third period of the opener. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

Favorite comfort food: When in doubt, Johnson goes for pizza. He doesn’t have a go-to topping, but there’s usually meat involved, maybe pepperoni or sausage.

Favorite video game right now: Among sports games, Johnson likes FIFA. He picks a team in the fourth English league and tries to get it promoted to the Premier League. Outside of sports games, Johnson is on board with the Fortnite craze.

Dream job: Johnson always wanted to be a hockey player as a kid. When he got older, he realized that dream doesn’t come true for everyone, and he studied anesthesiology. He doesn’t the backup plan yet.

MORE LIGHTING: Don't miss a thing! Use promo code GOBOLTS to get three months of unlimited digital access for $14

Random observations

• Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury continues to amuse. He played his 800th NHL game Friday, but the highlight had nothing to do with his goaltending. During a line brawl with the Sharks, Fleury picked up one of the Sharks’ sticks and stuck it through a hole in the glass to give it to some fans. San Jose defenseman Brent Burns tried to retrieve it, but the fans declined to give it back. Fleury is a great goaltender, but his amusing antics — another is building a snow wall in front of the net before heading to the bench — are gold.

• Ondrej Palat looks sharp early. There was a consensus during training camp that Palat appeared stronger, faster and better, and that carried over into the opener.

• The Lightning named two defensemen as alternate captains for captain Stamkos. Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh seem obvious choices, sure, though teams usually like to split the honor between positions. Teams also often pass the “A” around, so this might not be a set thing.


Top goalies by opening-night saves: 3. Penguins’ Matt Murray, 38 2. Canadiens’ Carey Price, 40 1. Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, 43

Top Lightning rookie debuts: 3. Anthony Cirelli scored in his first game. 2. Steven Stamkos debuted in Prague. 1. Nikita Kucherov scored on his first shot.

Top road-trip cities: 3. Boston 2. Vancouver 1. Montreal

Questions facing the Lightning

Did they give up too many chances opening night?

Cooper says no. There’s a but, though. The Lightning gave up 37 shots, and Cooper insists the scoring chances they allowed weren’t nearly as high. In fact, he says, they were where the team wants them to be.

Here’s the but: The grade-A chances allowed were too high.

“When we gave up a scoring chance, it was a doozy,” Cooper said. “We’re taking steps forward, but there’s so much room for improvement.”

That was one of the goals at the start of training camp, so we’ll call it a work in progress.

MORE LIGHTNING: They don't have to be perfect because they were good enough to win

When will Brayden Point play?

Cooper expressed frustration in watching Point skate well in practice, looking like he can play, only to be told Point isn’t ready as he comes back from offseason hip surgery. It’s a matter of clearance from the doctors, which could come this week.

Why is Steven Stamkos playing wing?

Six words: Steven Stamkos-Brayden Point-Nikita Kucherov. Now that’s a top line. Cooper said the coaches just like having options with players in different places. But that trio has practiced together, and it’s worth a heart-eyes emoji.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos.


  1. In this March 24, 2010, file photo, hockey personality Don Cherry, right, speaks during a news conference as actor Jared Keeso is displayed on a video screen while playing Cherry in the bio film "Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story" in Toronto. Sportsnet cut ties with Cherry on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, after the veteran hockey commentator called new immigrants "you people" on his "Coach's Corner" segment while claiming they do not wear poppies to honor Canadian veterans. DARREN CALABRESE  |  AP
    Cherry has not apologized for his remarks.
  2. The Stockholm City Library turned out to be the perfect place to get engaged. SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
    Stockholm City Library has a beautiful round hall that turned out to be the perfect place to get engaged
  3. Patrick Maroon of Tampa Bay Lightning against Buffalo on Nov. 9 in Stockholm. JONAS LJUNGDAHL  |  Bildbyran via ZUMA Press
    The team got practice, a reset and bonding from the week in Stockholm.
  4. Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning look on during the 2019 NHL Global Series Sweden, at the Ericsson Globe on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden. DAVE SANDFORD/NHLI  |  TNS
    Plus, a challenge to the NHL Challenge system, Tyler Johnson’s Sweden highlights and a Jon Cooper question. | Diana C. Nearhos
  5. A full-color model of the Vasa sits in front of the 391-year-old reconstructed Swedish warship at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. DIANA NEARHOS  |  TIMES
    Swedish travels continue with two of the most popular attractions in Stockholm.
  6. Tampa celebrates after Victor Hedman, left, scored, during a NHL Global Series hockey match between the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning at the Globen Arena, in Stockholm Sweden, Saturday. JESSICA GOW/TT  |  AP
    Yanni Gourde scored twice and Pat Maroon once as Tampa Bay swept the Globe Series back-to-back against the Sabres
  7. Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends goal during practice at Ericsson Globe on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden. BILL WIPPERT/NHLI  |  TNS
    Ondrej Palat, Erik Cernak, Andrei Vasilevskiy and others get to play nearer to home.
  8. Stockholm Ice Hockey Federation project leader, Simon Stigenberg, was recognized with some local children as the Community Hero alongside Lightning owner Jeff Vinik during the first period of Saturday's game in Stockholm. Courtesy of NHL Images
    Tampa Bay recognizes Stockholm Ice Hockey Federation for its effort to make hockey accessible to immigrants.
  9. Buffalo Sabres' Vladimir Sobotka (17) works the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan McDonagh (27) and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy defend during an NHL hockey game in Globen Arena, Stockholm Sweden. Friday. Nov. 8, 2019. (Anders Wiklund/TT via AP) ANDERS WIKLUND/TT  |  AP
    Lightning 3, Sabres 2: Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 20 saves help lift Tampa Bay in the first game of Global Series.
  10. Buffalo Sabres' Vladimir Sobotka (17) works the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan McDonagh (27) and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy defend during an NHL hockey game in Globen Arena, Stockholm Sweden. Friday. Nov. 8, 2019. ANDERS WIKLUND/TT  |  AP
    Victor Hedman felt the emotions strongly, playing in his home country