By Ken Peacock
It was almost a picture perfect night at the St. Pete Times Forum. Sure there was still some renovations being done, the Tesla Coils were not working, but the organ and pipes were ready and the home team was ready to go. The arena itself was great, I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. If Norfolk was ever to get a new Arena this would be one to model it after. So far every thing was ready, then the game started.
There are going to be some records set, but unfortunately it would be the Florida Panthers setting the first one of the season here on Lightning ice. Last night the Florida Panthers tied a franchise record with five power-play goals in one game en route to pounding the Tampa Bay Lightning 7 to 4.
The Panthers had four different players scoring on the power play. Tomas Kopecky, Stephen Weiss, Jason Garrison, and two from former Admiral, Kris Versteeg. The Lightning’s penalty kill was non-existent, something a bit unusual if you consider that they had one of the top ten penalty kill squads last season.
The game itself was fast paced with both teams scoring two a piece in the first, three of the goals were on the power play. The second saw two goals from the Panthers, one of them a nice looking shorthanded goal from former Bolt, Sean Bergenheim. The Bolts finally answered back with Vinny Lecavalier skating in and burying the puck past Panther goalie, Jose Theodore. The fans had the forum rocking after Lecavalier’s goal. Panthers were up 4-3 at the end of two. The third period was all Panthers with the exception of the lone Bolt goal from Steven Stamkos. The Panthers defense just smothered the Bolt’s offense and sent the Lightning and their fans home unhappy on opening night.
Former Admiral, Marc-Andre Bergeron was named the third star of the night with the Panthers Versteeg and Weiss taking the second and first stars. Former Admirals Matias Ritola, Blair Jones, and Adam Hall were all present with the big club. Ritola and Hall were both in the starting lineup and Jones had a seat in the press box.
Overall I was impressed with the Arena, the Lightning Staff, and the Lightning themselves. The game was a highlight of my vacation and I would definitely recommend that you get to a game if you happen to be in the Tampa or Orlando area. Orlando is only about an hour away from the St. Pete Times Forum and it was a straight shot in. The prices at the arena are typical of a major league venue. Be prepared to pay $5.00 for a soda or a slice of pizza. There is a variety of concessions to choose from. Lightning gear ranges from a $15 t-shirt to a $140 blank replica jersey. They will customize Jerseys and T-shirts on site while you are watching the game. I can’t even imagine ow much money the Jersey Customization stand took in last night. The Jerseys were flying off of the hook.
My request to the Norfolk Admirals……..Please adopt the Lightning Jerseys. The home jerseys look so good in person. I would be in for one customized jersey. Oh and yeah … one other thing…..Jersey customization on site…..Same jersey…Same Fonts…..Have Tampa order extra and ship them to Norfolk.