TAMPA — The Lightning was a broken record in training camp, repeating how it needed to start the season strong. Last season's 15-2-2 start was the best in franchise history and launched it toward a playoff run. The Lightning wanted to do that again.
With a five-game home stand to start this season, there seemed to be no excuse not to have a great start, but it didn't look like a given after two not-great outings led to a 1-1 beginning (even the win was in a shootout). Tampa Bay has rebounded, though, and capped off the home stand with a 3-1 win over the Red Wings on Thursday night to improve to 4-1-0.
"You look at that chunk (of opening games) before the season started, and you want to get a good amount of points out of it," said forward Ryan Callahan, who returned from May shoulder surgery ahead of schedule, playing in his first game Thursday. "Especially with a five-game road trip coming up."
No one was happy with the first two games, but they weren't too worried, either. The Lightning was lackluster in the opener but ended up with a shootout win over the Panthers, then came out flat in a loss to Vancouver.
"We knew we had better than we did in the first two games," Callahan said. "But we got some points out of it, which is a good thing. When you don't play your best and get some points, that's what you're looking for."
The lone loss grinds a bit on captain Steven Stamkos, whose goal in the second period Thursday was his first of the season and ended up the winner.
"To be honest, (our record) should have been 5-0," he said. "Our (penalty kill) has been outstanding; our goaltending has been outstanding. Our power play is definitely gaining some momentum."
The penalty kill is perfect on 23 penalties against, which leads the league, but coach Jon Cooper and Stamkos drew as much attention to the high number as the perfect record.
Brayden Point has continued the hot season he had last year. Point scored his fourth goal of the season Thursday to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the first. Alex Killorn added an empty netter.
Goaltending has been another strong point for the Lightning. It has allowed only 10 goals. Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed eight in four games — he made 29 saves to get the win against the Red Wings — and Louis Domingue gave up two in his start against the Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Starting the season with five games at home is a luxury. Asked before the game about Detroit's winless start, Cooper pointed to the Red Wings' schedule: home for a game, out west for two games, home, to Boston, Montreal and Tampa. Now it's the Lightning's turn to hit the road. Saturday, Tampa Bay begins a five-game trip to Minnesota, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas and Arizona.
Callahan quipped the team is about to get close quickly without anyone to hang out with but each other.
"I don't care who you are playing, you get four (wins) out of five (games), you got to be really happy,'' Cooper said. "Regardless of how things played out, for the most part these guys really worked hard on this (home stand). We've been home a long time. We've enjoyed it. We did what we had to do. Now we've got to go do it on the road.''