TAMPA, Fla. — After already reaching the mountain top in back-to-back seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning are entering this year with one goal in mind: get the three-peat. If they do, Tampa Bay would be just the sixth team in NHL history to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
However, the Lightning stumbled out of the gates during their Tuesday night season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, getting beaten in an emphatic fashion. The 6-2 loss was a wake-up call to the team and fans, reminding everyone the road back to the top will not be a cakewalk.
Call it a championship hangover, or the wear and tear of winning two titles in just 10 months, but the team never seemed like it could get out of second gear. After the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper admitted the team was just plain outplayed.
"In the end, they beat us to every puck, they worked harder than us, they were better than us in every facet of the game," Cooper said.
There are still 81 games left in the season — plenty of time to address what went wrong and regroup. But did Tuesday's disappointing loss hurt the Lightning's chances of winning another Stanley Cup?
Well, not really. It's still too early to tell.
Prior to the start of the season, many analysts pegged the young and talented Colorado Avalanche as the next team to make a run at the cup. Behind them were the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who just edged out a win Tuesday night against the expansion team Seattle Kraken.
CBS Sports notes Caesars Sportsbooks shows the Avalanche as the betting favorite right now.
But still in the conversation are the Lightning. The team lost some depth in the offseason but the core of its championship teams — Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy — is still intact. And no team with those names should be counted out.
The Lightning also weren't exactly world-beaters during the last regular season. Despite a strong start, Tampa Bay ran into some road bumps halfway through the season, finishing third in their division. However, the team's playoff experience came in handy, making their second Stanley Cup run look easy.
With all that in mind, there's no reason the team can't catch fire and get back to its winning ways.
So, what's next for Tampa Bay? The Lightning are skipping town on Thursday to start a two-game road series against the Red Wings and Capitals.