Ah, yes. This is what hockey is, all right.
The home team raising a banner to rekindle the memory of last season’s runner-up finish. The Lightning coming from behind. The Lightning winning in overtime. The crowd dancing and posing. The head coach finding a way.
All of that returned to play Thursday night as the Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, at Amalie Arena. Throw in a fascinating new rule, the three-on-three overtime period, and it made for a nice return to the ice for the Bolts.
Tampa Bay won a manic overtime period that featured several breakaways on a more open sheet of ice, one that was won by defenseman Jason Garrison on his second goal of the night. Ryan Callahan also scored for Tampa Bay.
After years of playing an overtime period followed by a shutout, this is certain to be a grand addition to the game. In a 2:17 span of play, the Lightning got off five shots and had another chance fumbled away. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped his second penalty shot of the night in overtime.
“I’m a fan of the shootout,” Cooper said. “I think there is a place for the shootout. But the three-on-three is a little more team-oriented. If it decides more games, that’s good for the game. How long did the three-on-three last? 2:17? It was lunacy for 2:17. A shootout doesn’t give you that same rush.”
It finally ended when Garrison got loose on a breakaway and jammed his second goal of the game in, and it felt like one of those old E-ticket rides.
“Personally, I don’t like to ride a roller coaster too much with my emotions,” Garrison said. “The three-on-three is a little like that. It’s a high, a low, a high. It’s exciting for the fans. There is a lot of open ice out there. I think our guys like that. It should be fun if we ever get in that situation.”
Forward Ryan Callahan, who also scored, prefers the three-on-three to a shootout. Provided he can survive it.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see too many games going to a shootout if it’s like that. I think once teams get some video on it, it’ll slow down some. Or I’m going to have a heart attack. It’s fun to watch. I like it better than a shootout. It can happen in a game. It’s a good way to end it.”
Well, maybe not so much from a goalie’s viewpoint. Bishop grinned at the three-on-three and acknowledged that fans will like it. But he said “I think it’s a little goofy, playing a three-on-three for five minutes.”
Tampa Bay visits Buffalo on Saturday.