NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning know how to ruin a big party. Steven Stamkos scored the…
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning know how to ruin a big party.
Steven Stamkos scored the game-winning goal at 11:31 of the third period as the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Saturday night to put the brakes on the NHL’s first outdoor game at Music City.
Stamkos also got two assists. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist, and Brayden Point also scored the opening goal as Tampa Bay became the 27th NHL franchise to finally play an outdoor game. The Lightning have now won four straight to draw within a point of Atlantic Division-leading Florida.
“I know a team wins the game, but I don’t know how someone in the end can go on a downer after the event that was staged,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of All night long. “It was exceptional.”
Tanner Jeannot and Filip Forsberg each scored a power-play goal for Nashville, which fell to 0-2 in away games. The Predators also snapped a two-game winning streak.
“Obviously we wanted to send happy people to Broadway, and now I guess a few will be, at least Lightning fans,” Forsberg said. “But it was a great atmosphere. I thought the game was a tough game until the end. Two power play goals apiece, the only 5-on-5 goal for them was obviously decisive.”
It was the outdoor game the Predators and Nashville have wanted for years at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, across the Cumberland River from their own arena. There are nine players remaining from Nashville’s outdoor opener at the 2020 Winter Classic in Dallas.
Music City and the NHL turned this event into a party starting hours before the puck drops with hockey jerseys filling downtown Nashville with fans lined up ready for the gates to open.
Predators forward Matt Duchene says it’s great when they have their usual 17,000 fans, but called it “crazy” with a sold-out crowd of 68,619. Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley sang during the first intermission, being among the performers who performed live throughout the match.
“It definitely doesn’t look like Game 51, I’m telling you,” Cooper said. “If these events are for the fans, the league has knocked it out of the park. What show.”
Nashville’s tradition of a catfish hitting the ice before big games continued, but with special help with an NFL quarterback likely the only one who can throw something even from the front row and hit the ice in the middle of the pitch at Nissan Stadium.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan brought a catfish with him onto the ice for the ceremonial faceoff, lifted it into the air and then handed it to longtime Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne whose No. 35 jersey was retired Thursday night. Rinne tossed the fish under the arms onto the ice.
Nashville fans brought their chants with them, and Jeannot gave them something to celebrate by scoring the game’s first goal at 8:20 with 14 seconds left on the power play and his 18th of the season for the rookie.
Matt Benning went to the box with 10.7 seconds left in the first, and Tampa Bay quickly converted 58 seconds into the second. A point scored on a wrist off a pass from Kucherov to give Lightning fans something to cheer on with a point in his sixth straight game.
Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with his own power-play goal at 6:18, his third goal in three games on a wrist from the right circle. Stamkos extended the lead at 11:31 of the third with a slap shot from the left circle to cap off a special night for center in his first outdoor game of his 14th NHL season.
“It was a bit special to have a good game personally, but we wanted to come here and get the win,” Stamkos said. “I was super happy with the effort we put in tonight. It lived up to all the hype you hear from some of the guys that have played these games. You never get it as long as you don’t play it yourself.
Forsberg brought Nashville within a point with his power-play goal with 7:31 left.
This game also pitted two of the NHL’s winningest goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy tied for the league lead with 27 wins for Tampa Bay, with Juuse Saros’ 25 wins tying him for fifth. Vasilevskiy made a string of saves after Nashville took their timeout with 1:31 left and finished with 26 saves to beat Saros.
The Predators have now allowed two or more power-play goals in four of their last seven games. They have the most penalty minutes in the NHL and lead the league with an average of 12.7 penalty minutes per game.
DRESS FOR THE MOMENT
Tampa Bay and Nashville made sure to coordinate their wardrobes before heading to this game. The Lightning went for a country look with denim jackets, jeans and cowboy hats with boots. The Predators went more rock ‘n’ roll with custom leather jackets adorned with musical winks and black hats.
Lightning: Host Ottawa on Tuesday night.
Predators: In Seattle on Wednesday night to begin a two-game road swing.
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