Hockey

NHL Opening Night 2021 — Best moments from Tampa Bay Lightning’s banner raising, the Seattle Kraken’s first game and more

After a long offseason, hockey is back!

The NHL regular season kicks off Tuesday night featuring some exciting games from some of the the league’s best — and newest — franchises. The Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their second banner in as many years while the Pittsburgh Penguins try to spoil their special night. Later on, two of the league’s newest teams — the Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken — will take the ice and start their respective seasons.

Both games will be featured on ESPN, bringing hockey back to the network after quite some time — 2003 to be exact. Some NHL teams had some fun with this, remembering where their franchises were the last time hockey was last broadcasted on ESPN.

The return of the puck to the ice is a celebration for many fans and enthusiasts. Social media is also relishing the beginning of the 2021 NHL regular season. Grammy award-winning artist Justin Bieber helps set the stage for a huge night on the ice for the NHL.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lighting (7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN)

The regular season of the NHL kicked off with the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling to Florida to take on the defending champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins were without star Sidney Crosby who is still rehabbing from wrist surgery. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh saw Tuesday as a great day for hockey and hoped to start their 2021 campaign with a win. Despite them being without their impact player in Crosby, the Penguins received a shout-out from their fellow Pittsburgh team — the Steelers.

The Lightning are coming in looking for a three-peat, which would cement this team’s status as a hockey dynasty. The team knows that their journey starts Tuesday, and this video narrated by Steven Stamkos from the squad’s Twitter account set the tone for their 2021 campaign. They also had a little fun courtesy of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare during their morning skate.

Tampa Bay also had the tunes to begin their season with a performance by multi-platinum recording band All Time Low. The concert was held on a stage above the waters where the Hillsborough River meets the Garrison Channel, where fans can watch from land at the Tampa Convention Center’s Sail Plaza or by boat in Garrison Channel before Tuesday’s contest. They had the Lightning’s Stanely Cup nearby during their performance, as they got the 2021 NHL season off to a rocking start.

Before the new season of hockey began, the Lightning were able to relive last season’s championship year one more time with their banner raising ceremony. The moment was in front of a packed Amalie Arena — a much different atmosphere compared to last year when the arena wasn’t as full due to COVID-19 protocols. The fans showered their team with praise for a great 2020 season and cheered them on in what hopes to be a successful 2021-2022 campaign.

The first goal of the 2021 NHL season came from Danton Heinen. After a scoreless first period, a deflected shot came Heinen’s way in the second, and he put the puck in the net to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. This is Heinen’s first game as a Penguin, signing with the team this offseason. He wasn’t the only one to score in the second period as Brian Boyle, who was just signed on Monday by the Penguins, also scored to raise Pittsburgh’s lead to two.

What a way to make your team debuts, huh?

Both offenses got things going in the third period, with a combined five goals being scored in that frame. The Penguins took advantage of an empty net by the Lightning and ran away in the contest late. They pulled off the upset, and ruined Tampa Bay’s banner night with a 6-2 win. It’s only one game, but it was an impressive outing by a Crosby-less Penguins and an underwhelming one by the defending champion Lightning.

The second game of ESPN’s doubleheader of opening night NHL action features the league’s two newest franchises. The Seattle Kraken will begin its inaugural season against the Vegas Golden Knights, who are in their fifth season of existence. Both teams are expected to make some noise during the 2021 season despite them being two of the NHL’s youngest franchises. Prior to the game, other Seattle professional sports teams reached out to the Kraken via social media, wishing them luck on their first season on the ice.

The players were having some fun before things got serious Tuesday night, kicking the soccer ball around amongst themselves pregame. If Brandon Tanev plays this season as hard as he was going after the soccer ball here, the Kraken could have an impressive opening year.

The Golden Knights need to make their mark on this season early, as they have championship or bust aspirations. Maybe they took the term “leave their mark” in a literal sense, as their logo was seen all around Vegas before the game.

The Knights brought out fire footwear to begin their 2021 season. Before putting on skates, Vegas players William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault donned some exceptional shoes pregame. Karlsson wore some spiked shoes that were equally shiny as they were dangerous, and Marchessault sported some black shoes with a red geometric design. Both men get an A+ for their ensembles with some of the best fits from opening night.

Even though they are foes on the ice tonight, the Golden Knights made sure they welcomed the Kraken to the NHL brotherhood. Despite it seeming like a half-baked welcome, Seattle was still very appreciative of Vegas’ kind pregame gesture.

Hockey in Seattle is an exciting time for fans in Washington — and a full-circle experience for two people. John Barr and Paul Buxton, residents of Seattle, had a sign four years ago at a hockey game that read “We [Seattle] want the NHL next,” inferring that their city wanted be next to receive an expansion team. Four years later, the statement came to fruition, and Barr and Buxton are in attendance for the Krakens first franchise game on Tuesday night — with an important change to their sign.

Unlike last season, stadiums will be packed, and fans in Vegas are pretty pumped to see their team take the ice in person. The atmosphere in the T-Mobile Arena was electric as the Golden Knights took the ice for warmups — bringing home field advantage back to the NHL.

Right before the puck dropped, Vegas showed an incredible clip on its ice. The video showed a Kraken (Seattle’s mascot) wreaking havoc in the sea before the Golden Knight vanquishes the beast. Maybe Vegas was doing a little foreshadowing, but it was an impressive video nonetheless.

It didn’t take long for the first goal to be scored — courtesy of the Golden Knights. Max Pacioretty put the puck in the net for Vegas to get the first goal of the season. Marchessault joined in on the fun a few minutes later, notching his first goal of the new season and pushing Vegas’ lead to two.

During the first intermission, the Golden Knights Twitter account started a new game to pass the time. It has a food tournament, pitting two cuisine items head-to-head — with the winner moving on to the next bracket during the team’s next contest. The first matchup of the year — mozzarella sticks vs. jalapeno poppers.

Vegas also has a special guest at their first game of the season. UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno stopped by for the festivities, even getting the crowd hyped during the first intermission. Safe to say he succeeded in getting the audience pumped up for the remainder of the game use the manual siren machine.

In the second frame, Vegas extends their lead thanks to a goal by Nicolas Hague. His score gives the Golden Knights a 3-0 lead over the Kraken, and the T-Mobile Arena is loving what they are seeing from their squad in the first game of the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Donato was the one who scored the first-ever goal in Seattle Kraken franchise history. He scored just as the power play ended in the second period, cutting the Golden Knights lead to two. Seattle was excited about their first goal — and they weren’t done. Shortly after, Jaden Schwartz added another score to bring the Kraken within one. Vegas’ social media team wasn’t too thrilled about Seattle’s first two scores.


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