Last night: home opener, big to-do, the unfortunate inclusion of thunderstix, promotional swag flowing freely. Full introduction of the team and staff as they came out onto the ice, complete with light shows and smoke cannons. I'm not sure what the attendance figures were, officially, but from where I sat the place looked about two thirds full.
For fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds things looked good. Devils scored, Lightning scored more. Stamkos got two goals, Marty got two assists. (I am starting to think that, no matter what it says on paper, the top line is the one that Marty's on.) Nets were crashed off the posts a few times. Malone took a bounce off Brodeur's head, and both he and his stick went spinning into the air. Bolts outshot the Devils by a healthy margin. Hedman proved that he is, in fact, mean on the inside, and took his defensive duties seriously.
Then Smith went down. You can see what happened in the recap here: Malone tried to check Langenbrunner and they both hit Smith with enough force to knock his mask off. The fans -- except for the Token Obnoxious Drunk Dude -- went quiet at this and thought about concussions. It's impressive how quiet several thousand people can be, when they put their minds to it. Turns out he'd wrenched his spine in the impact, and picked up a cut on his face. After this was tended to he got back up. Crowd cheered, net was hoisted back into place, and the game went on.
Things looked good until there were 0.7 seconds left, when the Devils picked up a muffled bounce and slipped it past Smith. Nobody knew what happened, at first, as the goal came from a scrum in front of the net and the in-house replays couldn't agree on how much time was left. The Jersey fans thought it was in with enough time; the Tampa fans disagreed with all the profanity they could muster. The refs phoned Toronto, who ruled the goal good, and at that point I think we all knew what would happen.
For the other fifty-nine minutes the team looked pretty solid. Surprisingly so, considering the fiasco of last year and the fact that there's still some sorting-out to be done, this early on.
Hey, I know. Crazy stuff can happen at any time and you never leave your seat until the players are off the ice. Still, we're three games into the season and already I'm sick of shootouts.