Tampa fans flood Nashville, power Lightnings win

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

NASHVILLE — The Tampa Bay Lightning said having so many of their fans in the crowd at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium made a huge impact in their Stadium Series victory over the Predators.

“Our coaching staff actually mentioned it before the game. There was some extra motivation because of all the fans that we had there. We wanted to go out and perform well for them,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos after their 3-2 victory over Nashville on Saturday night.

The official attendance for the game was 68,619 fans, which the NHL said was a sellout. Significant portions of that crowd were made up of Lightning fans, eager to watch their team in the franchise’s first-ever outdoor game. They chanted in the stadium concourse and cheered in the stands — especially after goals scored by Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos, who had the game-winner.

“It was remarkable. I always had to turn around when we scored because it was a sea of blue behind us,” said coach Jon Cooper.

“It was amazing. I personally wasn’t expecting so many Lightning fans because we were so far away from home. I respect it. We definitely tried to play harder because we knew they were there,” said forward Pierre-Édouard Bellemare. “When [Brayden Point] scored, it felt like there was almost a little bit more silence and then the cheer of our people came up. It was like, ‘here we go, we’re at home now.'”

The Lightning fans were present around Nashville on Friday and Saturday. “We were pumped when we saw that many people come out, all around our hotel and all the way down Broadway. When we come out and see that many Lightning fans, it definitely motivated us,” said Point.

Predators coach John Hynes said he wasn’t surprised that Tampa Bay had so many fans at the game because Nashville is a destination city.

“Being a Tennessee Titans fan, you see opposing team’s jerseys all around the city. I think it’s a compliment to the city of Nashville because I think it’s a place people want to come to,” he said.

Whether it was the destination or the event that brought them to Nashville, the Lightning said their fans made a difference.

“It felt like there were more Tampa fans than Nashville fans,” said forward Pat Maroon. “Hopefully you guys had fun. I know you guys froze your butts off. Hopefully you had a couple of cold beers to warm yourselves up.”

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