Tell me, did you stand up in your living room and applaud?
Did you grab the nearest child, spouse or dog and try to explain what you had just witnessed?
You were some 1,300 miles away from a hockey game in this socially distant Stanley Cup playoff opener Tuesday, and yet you may never have felt so close to the Lightning. They were that inspiring. They were that committed.
Tampa Bay had an afternoon — and a night — for the ages Tuesday when the Lightning beat the Blue Jackets 3-2 in five overtimes in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The game ran more than six hours in clock time and in game time was the fourth-longest playoff game in the NHL’s 103-year history.
“I don’t think anybody can understand how hard it is on a player to go through that and still be able to make the plays they were making,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “It was remarkable.”
In all, the Lightning spent more than 150 minutes on the ice and did not hold the lead until Brayden Point scored to end it.
“Unreal performance by both teams,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.
Of course, this may not bode well for the rest of the series. Columbus forced Tampa Bay into this same methodical, meet-me-at-the-blue-line style last postseason and won in a four-game sweep.
If this is any indication of how this series will progress, the Lightning are in for the fight of their lives. And the rest of us should enjoy every blessed minute of it. For heaven’s sake, the game went so long that the NHL postponed the Boston-Carolina series opener that was supposed to follow.
“Definitely a battle,” Point said. “Physical. Mental.”
So maybe the Lightning didn’t look like offensive wizards in Game 1, but you’ve seen that version of Tampa Bay a hundred times before in recent seasons. Instead, this was a less glossy and more endearing interpretation of the Lightning.
This was a Lightning team that had seen its desire questioned and its fortitude mocked after the last postseason. A team that has been a regular-season dynamo but achingly underwhelming in recent postseasons.
But not Tuesday.
You want to grind? You want to match passion? You want to compare sweat-soaked sweaters? If Columbus is supposed to be the epitome of the NHL’s blue-collar ethos, then the Lightning were working-class heroes.
This was Hedman playing nearly 60 minutes and firing shot after shot less than 72 hours after painfully turning his ankle and limping off the ice against the Flyers.
This was 170-pound Yanni Gourde parking himself in front of the Columbus net and refusing to move no matter how many times someone shoved a stick in his back or an elbow in his chest.
This was Andrei Vasilevskiy getting plowed over next to the net, wiping the blood from his split lip and standing back up to shut the Blue Jackets down for more than five consecutive periods.
This was a team prepared to grind it out. To show the world it is not just a bunch of highlight-reel scorers.
By almost any measurable quality, the Lightning controlled the action. They fired more than 175 shots, including a franchise-high 88 shots on goal. The only reason Columbus was able to survive is that goaltender Joonas Korpisalo played the game of his life. And, if you believe in reincarnation, it may have been the game of several lives.
Maybe you look at Columbus and say the Blue Jackets do not have the same ability as last season. And maybe you could argue the second-seeded Lightning should not be playing catchup against an inferior team for the second year in a row.
But this was a different look from the 2019 playoffs. The Lightning didn’t get frustrated and didn’t disappear when the Blue Jackets took the lead. Tampa Bay came from behind twice to tie the score, which is already more comebacks than it had in the four losses last season.
This looked like a team prepared to grind it out. To show the world it is not just a bunch of highlight-reel scorers. In some ways the Lightning were unrecognizable. They were shooting more, scoring less, and throwing shoulders without regard.
Maybe the Lightning had to lose their pride to find their heart.
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.