Kulikov crushes Eyssimont in the opening moments of Game 1.

Kulikov crushes Eyssimont in the opening moments of Game 1.

Dmitri Kulikov looks to set the tone early with a massive hit on Michael Eyssimont that dislodges his helmet.

Jonathan Larivee

Everyone expected the first round Stanley Cup playoff matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to be a hard fought series and, if the first period between these two teams is any indication, it seems everyone was right.

It didn't take long for things to get very physical between these two teams with Panthers veteran defenseman Dmitri Kulikov setting the tone early, and perhaps looking to send a message early, with a massive hit on Lightning forward Michael Eyssimont.

Eyssimont was trying to race down the ice along the boards and into the Panthers zone, doing so successfully, but Kulikov was pacing him the entire way and when they finally reached the end boards he lowered the boom on Eyssimont. It was a big hit along the boards, one delivered with enough force to dislodged Eyssimont's helmet from his head, and one that sent the Lightning forward crashing down to the ice.

It look initially as though Eyssimont may have been shaken up on the play, but much to his credit he was able to quickly regain his feet, and his helmet, and seemed to have suffered no lasting ill effects from the hit.