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Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros makes a saves as Tampa Bay Lightning centre Brayden Point moves in for a rebound during the second period. The Lightning won 5-3 on Oct. 10, 2023, in Tampa, Fla.Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press

Jonas Johansson made 28 saves in his first start in place of the injured Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nicholas Paul had two third-period power-play goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 in the NHL regular-season opener on Tuesday night.

Johansson was signed to be Vasilevskiy’s backup. Vasilevskiy had back surgery two weeks ago and is expected to miss another six to eight weeks.

“His game was quiet,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “He made himself big. He wasn’t erratic. He just plays positional goal. When the heat got turned up, his heart rate didn’t go up. You’d have to say he passed the test.”

Brandon Hagel converted a penalty shot, and Nikita Kucherov also scored twice for the Lightning. Brayden Point had three assists.

The Lightning are 20-9-2 in season openers, which is the NHL’s highest winning percentage (minimum 10 games played).

Nashville’s Juuse Saros stopped 29 shots. Ryan O’Reilly, Juuso Parssinen and Tommy Novak had goals in Andrew Brunette’s debut as Predators coach.

“I felt good about our game,” Brunette said. “Just against this team, we talked about it coming in, you can’t get into penalty trouble. Their power play is elite. I’ve seen this record play too many times in this building”

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, entering the final season of a US$68-million, eight-year contract, had an assist. Tampa Bay general manager Julien Brisebois has said the salary-cap challenged team won’t begin talks on a new deal until after the season.

Novak had a power-play goal at 8:48 before Paul made it 4-3 on a man-advantage goal 2:04 later. Kucherov added an empty-netter.

Parssinen scored 11 seconds into the third period before goals 42-seconds apart by Paul, on the power play, and Hagel put the Lightning up 3-2 at 3:07.

Kucherov scored the lone first-period goal as Tampa Bay had a 13-2 shot advantage.

“Not the start we wanted,” O’Reilly said. “We have to be more consistent with that, but we battled back.”

O’Reilly tied it at 1 during the second period as Nashville outshot the Lightning 14-5.

“I think the second got away from us.” Point said. “But happy with how we responded in the third.”

Nashville centre Cody Glass took a point shot by teammate Tyson Barrie off the helmet with 6 minutes left in the second but returned in the third period.

Lightning forward Tyler Motte sat out the third with an undisclosed injury.

Dickie V at the rink

College basketball icon Dick Vitale was among a group of Tampa Bay area sports legends taking part in a ceremonial puck drop.

Vitale, on social media Tuesday, said he will have two scopes within the next five days to determine if his 35 radiation treatments “wiped out” his vocal cord cancer.

Also seen

Hall of Famers joining Vitale on the ice were the NHL’s Phil Esposito and Dave Andreychuk, the NFL’s Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, and MLB’s Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff.

Nine-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Scotty Bowman watched from the press box. The 90-year-old Bowman saw his first NHL game in 1937 when his father, a Montreal Maroons fan, took him to see a game against the Canadiens.

Up next

Predators: Host Seattle on Thursday night

Lightning: Play at Detroit on Saturday night.

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