Lightning rally to beat Predators in season opener with Paul’s power-play goals


The Tampa Bay Lightning started their 2023-24 NHL season with a thrilling 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena. The game featured a back-and-forth third period, with four goals scored in less than six minutes. The hero of the night was Nick Paul, who scored two power-play goals for the Lightning, including the game-winner.


Paul shines in new role on top power-play unit

Nick Paul, who joined the Lightning from the Ottawa Senators last season, had a breakout performance in his new role as the net-front presence on the team’s star-studded top power-play unit. Paul scored two goals in the third period, both on rebounds from shots by Mikhail Sergachev. Paul showed his ability to use his size and skill to create havoc in front of the net and capitalize on loose pucks.

Paul, who had only one goal in his last 25 games of the regular season and playoffs last year, said he was happy to contribute offensively and help the team win.

“It feels good,” Paul said. “It’s been a while since I’ve scored, so it’s nice to get that monkey off my back and get some confidence going. I’m just trying to do my job on the power play, get in front of the goalie, make it hard for him to see, and get some tips and rebounds.”

Paul’s teammates praised his performance and his chemistry with the other members of the power-play unit, which included Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Sergachev.

“He’s been awesome,” Kucherov said. “He’s a big body, he’s strong on the puck, he’s smart, he knows where to go. He’s been great for us.”

Kucherov opens and closes scoring for Lightning

Nikita Kucherov, who led the NHL in scoring last season with 120 points, picked up where he left off with a two-goal game against the Predators. Kucherov opened the scoring in the first period with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Predators goalie Juuse Saros. Kucherov also closed the scoring with an empty-netter in the final minute of the game, assisted by Paul and Sergachev.

Kucherov said he was happy to start the season with a win and a strong performance by his line, which also included Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

“It’s always nice to score goals and help the team win,” Kucherov said. “We have a good chemistry on our line, we know each other well, we know where to find each other on the ice. We just have to keep working hard and playing our game.”

Johansson fills in for Vasilevskiy in net

Jonas Johansson, who was acquired by the Lightning from the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason, made his debut for the team in place of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is expected to miss the first two months of the season after undergoing back surgery. Johansson made 27 saves on 30 shots and earned his first win as a Lightning.

Johansson said he was nervous at first but settled in as the game went on.

“It was a great feeling to play my first game for this team,” Johansson said. “It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but I think I got more comfortable as the game went on. The guys played really well in front of me and helped me out a lot.”

Coach Jon Cooper said he was impressed by Johansson’s performance and his ability to step up in Vasilevskiy’s absence.

“I thought he did a great job,” Cooper said. “He made some big saves when we needed them. He gave us a chance to win. He’s been working hard since he got here and he’s earned this opportunity. He’s going to be an important part of our team until Vasy comes back.”

Predators spoil Lightning’s banner-raising ceremony

The Predators spoiled the Lightning’s banner-raising ceremony before the game, which celebrated their Presidents’ Trophy win last season as the best regular-season team in the NHL. The Predators scored three goals in the second and third periods to take a 3-2 lead early in the final frame.

The Predators’ goals came from Matt Duchene, Juuso Parssinen, and Tommy Novak. Duchene scored on a breakaway in the second period after a turnover by Hedman. Parssinen scored 11 seconds into the third period on a rebound from a shot by Filip Forsberg. Novak scored on a power play midway through the third period on a wrist shot from the slot.

Predators coach John Hynes said he was proud of his team’s effort but disappointed with the result.

“I thought we played a good game against a very good team,” Hynes said. “We showed some resilience and some character to come back and take the lead in the third period. But we made some mistakes that cost us and we couldn’t close it out. We have to learn from this and move on.”

Lightning look ahead to next game against Panthers

The Lightning will look to build on their season-opening win when they face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Amalie Arena. The Panthers are also coming off a win in their first game, beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Tuesday night.

The Lightning and the Panthers have developed a heated rivalry in recent years, especially after their epic first-round playoff series last season, which the Lightning won in six games.

Paul said he expects a tough and physical game against the Panthers.

“They’re a good team, they’re fast, they’re skilled, they’re hard to play against,” Paul said. “We know what to expect from them. We have to be ready to match their intensity and play our game.”

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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