After watching the video of Wednesday’s agonizing 2-1 loss to Chicago in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the tape showed pretty much the same things he saw during the game.
Namely, the Lightning played well for large chunks of the game but skated too much in their end during the third period and were undone by turnovers down the stretch.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Cooper said at a midday media session with the Lightning off Thursday. “I can’t sit up here and say Chicago outplayed us. Did they deserve to win? I think it was a pretty even game. I think we had a chance to take that game in the first couple periods…I felt if we got that second one, it would have put them away. We didn’t. We let them hang around, and it burned us.”
Rather than letting the game come to them in the third period, the Lightning were chasing according to captain Steven Stamkos.
“We gave a team that is very skilled and talented and knows what to do in those situations, we gave them the puck,” he said. “They had it too much, and the rest is history after that. We learned our lesson pretty quickly here, and we’re not worried. We’re excited about the fact that we did a lot of positive things and that’s something to build on.
Positives like the penalty kill not letting Chicago set up in the offensive zone, starting the game with an attacking, aggressive approach that had the Blackahawks skating cautiously and preventing the Hawks from getting no more than a couple good scoring opportunities.
Now it’s just a matter of doing it for a full 60 minutes.
“As these playoffs have gone on, it’s just another learning experience after another learning experience,” Cooper said. “We found out that if we’re going to play passive in the third period against Chicago, it may not work out too well for us. But we’re pretty confident in our defensive abilities. We’ve shown it in the playoffs. It’s just a good team got the better of us last night, and we’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
BOUNCE BACK EFFECT
The Lightning have been near-perfect in games following a defeat, going 7-1 in the 2015 Playoffs, the only back-to-back losses coming in Games 4 and 5 vs. Montreal when the Bolts already had a three-games-to-none lead.
The Lightning were similarly resilient during the regular season, finishing as the only team in the NHL not to lose three-consecutive games.
“This group has bounced back all season,” Stamkos said. “I don’t think anything will change at this time of year.”
Tampa Bay has fallen in three of four Games 1s during the current playoff run, Montreal (Second Round) being the only team to lose the opening game.
“I don’t think we planned on losing the first game in three of the four, but it’s definitely not something that we’ve had issues with,” Stamkos said.
One bit of solace for the Lightning: in 2004, Tampa Bay dropped Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at home against Calgary 4-1.
The Lightning would go on to take the series in seven and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
GAME TWO MUST WIN?
Surely, the Lightning would be all-but finished if they lost Game 2 at home and were in an 0-2 hole going into Chicago’s United Center for Games 3 and 4.
Or would they?
“I don’t think (Game 2) is (a must-win),” Lightning defenseman Matt Carle said. “We’re pretty confident in our road game. We showed in the last round of the playoffs when we have a must-win on the road, we’ve been able to pull it out. So I don’t really think it adds a whole lot of pressure to tomorrow.”
The Lightning have been subpar at home in the postseason, going 5-6 following Wednesday’s Game 1 loss.
But on the road, the Bolts have played with confidence. They’re 7-3 away from Amalie Arena, including a 3-1 record in New York’s Madison Square Garden during the Eastern Conference Final.
They’ll be facing a Chicago team that’s 7-1 at home this postseason, however.
“Obviously, we want to even the series up and be feeling good going into Chicago,” Carle said. “But by no means would we put that kind of must-win pressure on us for (Saturday).”