Stanley Cup champion Lightning beat Blackhawks in season opener

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The Tampa Bay Lightning got their Stanley Cup title defence off to a roaring start on Wednesday by dominating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on the same night they unveiled their second Stanley Cup championship banner.

Canadian forward Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots in the season opening night of the 2020-21 NHL regular season which included a five-game slate.

The Lightning began the 56-game season Wednesday but they won't be defending their title in front of home fans right away due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The team showed off their new championship banner at centre ice in front of some family members of the players. They have decided to wait to raise it to the rafters until ticket-buying fans are allowed back into the arena which won't take place before at least February 7.

Tampa beat the Dallas Stars in six games in last season's playoff final and this banner will join the one they captured in 2004 by beating the Calgary Flames in seven games.

Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point scored goals for the Lightning who improved their league-leading winning percentage to 19-7-2 in season openers.

Dylan Strome scored late in the game on a power play for Chicago, and goalie Malcolm Subban stopped 28 of 33 shots in his 61st NHL start.

Tampa played without star forward Nikita Kucherov who will undergo hip surgery and is expected to miss the entire season.

In Philadelphia, American Joel Farabee finished with a goal and four points as the host Philadelphia Flyers scored three unanswered goals in the final period to beat Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3.

- 'A little lucky' -

"I feel a lot more comfortable this year," said 20-year-old Farabee, who is in his second NHL season. "I feel like we have four really good lines, all our defencemen are really strong. I just happened to get a little lucky tonight with some bounces."

Oskar Lindblom and Kevin Hayes scored just 20 seconds apart in the third to cap the scoring for the Flyers, who jumped out to a 2-1 lead with two power play goals in the first period.

James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick scored in the first and Michael Raffl added the other the other third period goal. Carter Hart made 31 saves for the Flyers who led 2-1 after the first and 3-2 heading into the third.

Elsewhere, Morgan Rielly scored at 3:24 of overtime and John Tavares had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-4 as the reshuffled seven-team Canadian division got under way.

Tavares finished off a two on one break by setting up Rielly for an easy tip in at the side of the for the game winner.

"Good way to open the year with a win," Rielly said. "We've got a lot of areas to get better, but to open with a win, it's always a good feeling."

William Nylander scored two goals and had an assist for the Maple Leafs. Jimmy Vesey scored the team's other goal.

Josh Anderson scored twice for Montreal. Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar also scored, and Jeff Petry and Jonathan Drouin each had two assists for the Canadiens. Carey Price made 29 saves.