TAMPA, Fla. -- A prolonged winter ended with a pleasing thaw.
Approach this uncommon Opening Night at Tampa Bay Times Forum however you wish: A time to heal, a chance to cling to a cold shoulder, an opportunity to move beyond an inexplicable 113-day lockout but remain wary about the NHL's direction.
Whichever path is chosen, the pavement is similar. It's imperfect. It's a little rough. There are perhaps more than a few speed bumps to come on this 48-game dragstrip. Some fans may forgive. Others may be lost for good. But at long last, the league's wheels are turning again.
So after more than two hours of entertaining, exhilarating hockey here, we ask: What the heck took so long? And wasn't the return refreshing?
"We were excited," said Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, after his team's 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. "It has been a long time for everyone since we played an NHL game. It was a little bit of a...