For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, NHL.com has enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy to break down the action. McCarthy will be checking in throughout the series.
McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was a member of the staff that led the franchise to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.
Kevin McCarthy has been in the position that both the Canadiens and the Lightning find themselves in, and there are unique mental challenges facing each.
For the Canadiens, the natural tendency for a team that's ahead 3-0 in a series is to realize there is room for error, even if you do everything in your power to convince yourself otherwise.
"You can lose your focus," McCarthy told NHL.com. "In the back of your mind, if things don't go your way early in the game or you're not playing well, you know you have another game to win it. The biggest mistake you can make is to think the other team is going to think the series is over. You have to understand that team is playing with a purpose."
McCarthy knows, because he was that team when he was behind the bench of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, who came back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
McCarthy said what he and coach Peter Laviolette did ahead of Game 4 was break it down into five-minute segments, challenging the Flyers to win each segment, thereby making the monumental task of winning four games as small as possible.
"If you can win or come out even after that first five-minute segment," McCarthy said, "then the goal starts to become more and more attainable."
The way the Lightning finished Game 3 against the Canadiens, putting together their best 40 minutes of the series, should provide them with something to build on in Game 4. McCarthy thinks Tampa Bay will benefit from simply knowing that if it plays the way it did in the second and third periods of Game 3, it should be able to win a game against Montreal.
And that's where the journey back starts.
"Mentally," he said, "that's a huge plus for Tampa Bay."