TAMPA, Fla. – Tristan Jarry had 26 saves, Danton Heinen and Brian Boyle scored early second-period goals, and the short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 in the regular-season opener on Tuesday night.
Dominik Simon, Teddy Blueger, Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues also scored, and Kris Letang had two assists for the Penguins, who played without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The final three Pittsburgh goals were into an empty net.
“It's a process but I think we proved that we can play against a team like that, we can play well and we can win,” Simon said.
Tampa Bay got goals from Anthony Cirelli and Andrew Killorn, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots. Star right wing Nikita Kucherov didn't have a shot on goal, while defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was minus-5.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance as Tampa Bay unveiled its 2020-21 Stanley Cup banner during a pregame ceremony. The Lightning have won two consecutive titles following pandemic-impacted and abbreviated regular seasons.
“We wanted to kind of spoil it,” Heinen said.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the outcome would have the same if the opponent had been the Penguins’ minor league team.
“They beat us to every puck, they worked harder than us, they were better than us in every facet of the game,” Cooper said. “If it wasn’t for our goalie it probably would have been way worse. They came here to win a hockey game, we came here and watched the banner raising, and then watched a team want to win a hockey game. We did a lot of watching tonight.”
Jarry turned aside Brayden Point’s low slot shot during the game’s first power play midway through the second.
The Penguins blocked 15 shots.
“It makes my job really easy,” Jarry said. “They're playing hard, and they're blocking shots. They did a great job for me.”
Heinen and Boyle put the Penguins up 2-0 with goals in the first 4:11 of the second.
Jeff Carter stole Vasilevskiy’s clearing attempt behind the net and set up Heinen’s goal 12 seconds in. Boyle, who signed a $750,000, one-year contract before the game after coming to training camp on a tryout offer, scored from the low slot at 4:11. The 12-year veteran last played with Florida in 2019-20.
“That was awesome,” Heinen said of Boyle's goal. “It was a nice goal, too. He's such a great guy, always smiling. A great teammate to have,”
Simon made it 3-0 when his long-range shot eluded Vasilevskiy with 8:28 left in the third. It was his first goal since Feb. 2, 2020.
Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy with 6 minutes left and it paid off when Cirelli scored at 14:23. However, with Vasilevskiy off the ice again, Blueger picked up an empty-netter 30 seconds later.
Killorn got another Lightning goal with the extra attacker but Rodrigues and Rust got the Penguins' second and third empty-net goals.
Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning 14-7 in the first period. Simon had his in-close chance stopped during a 2-on-1 by Vasilevskiy, and Rodrigues lost control of the puck on a breakaway.
The Lightning had a streak of winning seven consecutive season openers, all at home, end.
TWO IN A ROW GATHERING
Chicago senior advisor Scotty Bowman was at the game. Bowman (Detroit 1997-98), Cooper and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan (2016-17) are the last three NHL coaches to win back to back Stanley Cups. Bowman (Montreal 1976-79) and Al Arbour (1980-83) are the last two to win three straight championships when both had streaks of four consecutive titles.
Sullivan tied Dan Bylsma for the most regular-season wins by a Pittsburgh coach with 252.
Penguins: Crosby (wrist) is practicing, as are LW Jake Guentzel (Covid-19) and LW Zach Aston-Reese (Covid-19). … Malkin (knee) was placed on long-term IL. … D Mike Matheson (lower body) was scratched.
Lightning: D Cal Foote (finger) and C Gemel Smith (lower body) didn’t play.
Penguins: Wrap up a two-game trip at Florida on Thursday night.
Lightning: At Detroit on Thursday night.
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