Chandler Stephenson's goal is upheld and the Golden Knights lead 4-3 with 11:27 to go. What a deflating goal for the Kraken to give up after tying the game.
The 2021-22 NHL season is officially underway. This marks the first time since the 2018-19 campaign in which the NHL will hold a traditional 82-game season. All of the action got started with the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defending champs had a tough night, as they fell to the Penguins, 6-2. And to make it worse, that is a Penguins team that is playing without star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the foreseeable future because of injuries.
Penguins 6, Lightning 2
The Tampa Bay Lightning raised their second consecutive Stanley Cup banner prior to Tuesday's season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, that proved to be the most positive aspect of the night for the home team.
The Penguins defeated the Lightning 6-2 and received second-period goals from forwards Brian Boyle, Danton Heinen and Dominik Simon to pace the offensive attack. Goaltender Tristan Jarry also was a force in net as he turned away 28 shots in the win.
The two teams played to a scoreless tie after the first 20 minutes, but the Penguins quickly took control of the contest in the second period. Just 12 seconds into the second period, Andrei Vasilevskiy misplayed the puck behind the net and Heinen was able to score on the empty net off a pass from veteran forward Jeff Carter. Just four minutes later, veteran Brian Boyle put the Penguins up 2-0 after he beat Vasilevskiy through the five-hole. Boyle had just signed with the team on Monday after sitting out the 2020-21 season.
After Dominik Simon made it a 3-0 game midway through the third period, the Lightning employed an intriguing strategy as Vasilevskiy was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. It ended up working out as defenseman Victor Hedman ripped one from the point and Anthony Cirelli deflected it home to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Lightning kept up with pulling Vasilevskiy in the final minutes, but forwards Teddy Blueger, Evan Rodrigues and Bryan Rust scored empty-net goals to put the game out of reach.
The Penguins were easily the more aggressive team out of the gate. Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 34-25 and blocked 15 shots on the night. Despite being without forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Zach Aston-Reese, the Penguins were able to easily dispatch the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Golden Knights 4, Kraken 3
The Seattle Kraken are hoping to follow the blueprint that the Vegas Golden Knights set as an expansion team back in 2017. However, the teacher was able to get the last laugh against the student this time around.
On Tuesday, the Golden Knights were able to come away with a 4-3 win in the inaugural regular-season game for the Kraken. Vegas forward Chandler Stephenson scored the game-winning goal at the 8:33 mark of the third period. Stephenson had the puck hit off of his skate, but the officials ruled that there wasn't a distinct kicking motion.
Vegas forward Max Pacioretty was an absolute force all night long as he registered three points (two goals and an assist). Pacioretty scored two of the team's first three goals while Mark Stone dished out three assists on the night.
Just 35 seconds prior to Stephenson's goal, Kraken forward Morgan Geekie was able to get to the loose puck in the neutral zone and ripped one past Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner. Geekie's goal tied the score at three after the Golden Knights took a commanding lead in the early going.
The Kraken were able to get the comeback started thanks to a gritty goal from Ryan Donato, who recorded the first goal in franchise history. Joonas Donskoi snapped a shot that Lehner stopped, but Donato outmuscled Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez for the rebound tally. Jared McCann also added a goal for the Kraken on a play in which the puck slid just past Lehner.
Despite the Kraken's furious comeback, the Golden Knights still have yet to lose in regulation when holding a three-goal lead in a regular-season game. Vegas is now 91-0-1 when holding a three-goal lead in the regular season.
Following the first night of NHL action, here are a few takeaways from Opening Night:
Penguins might have the scoring depth to survive without Malkin
The Penguins knew that they were going to be without Crosby and Malkin for the start of the regular season. However, the team also lost forwards Jake Guentzel and Zach Aston-Reese after both players tested positive for COVID-19. With four of their top forwards out of the lineup, what did the Penguins do? Six Pittsburgh players scored a goal against the defending-champion Lightning.
One of the biggest surprises was the play of veteran forward Brian Boyle. Boyle, who signed with the team just one day prior to opening night, logged 16 shifts in which he tallied a goal, blocked two shots and registered two hits in 9:21 of ice time. While he didn't log a ton of ice time, Boyle could be a nice veteran presence to have on Pittsburgh's fourth line.
In addition, Jeff Carter did a little bit of everything as he centered Pittsburgh's top line. Carter had an assist on Danton Heinen's goal, had a shot on goal, and registered three hits in 19:37 of ice time, which was the second-highest among forwards.
Based on what we've seen in recent Penguin practices, it's likely that Crosby will return in the very near future. Malkin is slated to miss the first two months of the season, but Pittsburgh just might have plenty of scoring depth if Tuesday's victory is any indication.
Lightning could have Stanley Cup hangover
The deck was really stacked against the Penguins. You're talking about a team that is down four of their top forwards, so if they lost, it wouldn't have come as a huge shock. However, the Lightning looked absolutely stagnant out of the gate and didn't score a single even-strength goal. Tampa Bay's two tallies came with an extra attacker after they pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Perhaps the Lightning did have a Stanley Cup hangover after winning back-to-back championships. A few of the pieces have changed, but this team is way too talented to believe that this is what they will be this season. If the Lightning make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final for a third consecutive season, no one would bat an eyelash.
Golden Knights have unlimited stable of playmakers
Since the Golden Knights entered the league back in 2017, this has been a group that has proved that they can do a ton of damage on the offensive end of the ice. However, the 2021-22 version could have the largest amount of playmakers that we've seen thus far.
Tuesday's season opener showcased just how dangerous this group of forwards can be. Max Pacioretty registered a pair of goals and Jonathan Marchessault easily had the prettiest tally of the night as he used his length to tuck the puck past Kraken netminder Philipp Grubauer. While all of that was extremely impressive, it was a masterful performance from Mark Stone that garnered the most attention. Stone finished with three assists and his playmaking ability was on full display.
For example, on Pacioretty's second goal, Stone easily could've ripped a shot of his own on net and it very well might have gone in past Grubauer. However, Stone looked for the better pass and hit defenseman Nicolas Hague in the slot for the high percentage chance, which Pacioretty deflected.
As deep as Vegas' roster is, Stone may even have more value for a facilitator. Stone has registered at least 40 assists in each of the last two seasons, but if he keeps seeing the ice like this, the Golden Knights could be unstoppable.
Kraken will be fun to watch this season
There was an abundance of excitement surrounding the Kraken's inaugural NHL regular-season game. The Pacific Northwest seemed to really latch on to its newest team and it also didn't hurt that Seattle was making its debut in a nationally-televised setting.
It looked rather bleak in the early going as the Golden Knights scored two goals in the opening seven minutes. Max Pacioretty was putting on a show and making life miserable for Philipp Grubauer. However, the Kraken didn't throw in the towel by any stretch and put their foot on the gas in order to climb back into the game. Ryan Donato's goal really set the tone as he was able to score one of the most difficult goals that you'll see around the net.
Donato's goal helped shift the momentum and all of a sudden, the Kraken were looking like the more aggressive team. They were physical on the forecheck and were getting to those 50/50 pucks. Seattle battled all the way back from a three-goal deficit when they could've just packed it in.
This is a group that has a strong defensive foundation with veteran defensemen like captain Mark Giordano and Adam Larsson and an elite netminder in Grubauer. The Kraken might win a lot of 2-1 and 3-2-type games throughout the season in which their defensive acumen will be important. There's a long way to go to see if the Kraken will be a playoff team like the Golden Knights were in their inaugural season. However, aside from earning a win, the Kraken couldn't have asked for a much better start.