Ryan Callahan has Ondrej Palat to thank for his first goal as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The rookie brought the play into the offensive zone on his own, then made a beautiful play to get the puck out of his skates, up to his stick, and over to a streaking Callahan in the slot.
It’ll make you say “wow,” or “nice,” or, “sweet,” or some other one syllable word in awe.
The Lightning were all over their intra-state rivals, just as they have been all season, until the Panthers made a too-late swipe at a comeback. And with a 5-4 win over Florida Thursday night in their last meeting of the season, Tampa Bay became the inaugural victors of the illustrious Governor’s Cup.
Never heard of the Governor’s Cup? That’s OK. If you’re not a fan of the Lightning or Panthers, you’re not likely to be familiar with it. In fact, even if you are a fan, you could be excused for never hearing about it.
However, despite how meaningless it is in the standings, it is a good cause directed at the growth of the game at the grassroots level in the state.
“Aimed at growing the pride and popularity of the sport in Florida while also supporting youth hockey and education,” the Governor’s Cup is a competition between Florida and Tampa Bay and awarded to the team that accumulates the most points in their four regular season matchups. The winner gets the Cup and both teams make a donation to the other’s youth hockey initiatives.
Tickets are given out to local students for games in this series, so the young Lightning fans were treated not only to Callahan’s first goal with the team, but also to Steven Stamkos’ first point and goal since his return from a broken leg.
The assist on Tyler Johnson’s goal wasn’t highlight worthy, but the goal? Vintage Stamkos. One that stood up as the game-winner, too.
The Lightning had technically already clinched the Cup before this game started, having won each of the first three matchups.
The Governor’s Cup: Just another thing for Panthers fans to fret over.