Tampa — Following festivities to celebrate Military Appreciation Night at Amalie Arena, including 101-year-old retired U.S. Army Air Corps Lieutenant Robert McClintock singing the national anthem along with long-time fan favorite and retired Air Force Technical Sergeant Sonya Brison, the Lightning wasted little time in putting on a show in their first home game in 18 days.
A four-goal first period, all coming within the first 6:42, was punctuated by three goals in a 61-second span that set the stage for a 9-3 win over the Rangers.
The nine goals on Thursday night equaled the franchise mark previously set on November 3, 2003 against the visiting Penguins. Five of the Tampa Bay goals were with the man advantage, tying the mark from March 19, 1995 at Buffalo.
So much for any potential malaise in the first game at home since an overtime loss to Nashville on October 23.
“When you score often early it kind of helps your psyche,” said coach Jon Cooper. “I don’t think anybody on either team thought it was going to be 4-0 that early in the game. Fortunately, that kind of propelled us.”
Did it ever. Nikita Kucherov’s four points (1g, 3a) led the way as 14 of 18 skaters recorded at least one point. There were eight different goal scorers with Alex Killorn tallying twice.
Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos each had three points. Stamkos scored the 399th goal of his career on the power play at 7:07 of the second period to make it 5-1.
“We were able to take advantage of early power plays and that set the tone for the rest of the night,” said Stamkos, in referring to a pair of man-advantage goals 39 seconds apart in the opening period that made it 3-0. “We didn’t want to take our foot off the gas. Not often do you have a game where you are up like that so quick.”
Defenseman Luke Schenn, playing in his fourth game with Tampa Bay, opened the scoring at 2:39 with his first goal in a Lightning uniform. Killorn and Kucherov struck for those two quick power play goals before Ondrej Palat’s made it 4-0 at 6:42 and signaled the end of the evening for Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev.
The Lightning (9-5-2) outshot the Rangers, 16-4, in the first period and took a 4-1 lead into the break. Four second-period goals made it 8-1 and Gourde’s tally at 12:24 of the third period equaled the team’s single-game mark as well as the number of goals on the power play.
Tampa Bay outshot the Rangers, 45-23.
“A lot of times when you come back from a long road trip it’s tough to get into these games,” said Killorn. “But we had four days (after coming home from Sweden), so we had a couple of good practices and a great start, which helped out.”
During their time away from Tampa there was a three-game road swing through the New York metropolitan area to play the Rangers, Devils and Islanders followed by a trip to Sweden and a two-game series against the Sabres as part of the NHL Global Series.
The Lightning beat Buffalo in both games in Stockholm and now have a three-game win streak heading into Saturday afternoon’s (4 p.m.) game against visiting Winnipeg.