They’ve failed both times.
The Bolts will get another opportunity on Tuesday when they host the Habs in Game 6 at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay hasn’t lost three consecutive games all season. The Lightning have been resilient after losses, usually playing some of their best hockey in the game after a defeat.
If that trend continues, Game 6 will be the last time the Lightning have to face the Canadiens this season.
Tampa Bay had chances to close out the Habs in Montreal but couldn’t do it. So, what can we take away from Game 5 with Game 6 looming on the horizon two days away?
Here are three things to ponder while the series takes a mini break.
1. DON’T PANIC
At Amalie Arena this season, whenever the opposing team scores, French Montana’s “Don’t Panic” blasts from the speakers.
Now would be a good time for the arena board operator to hit the “Don’t Panic” button.
Sure the Lightning have lost two straight to the Canadiens, frittering away a seemingly safe three-games-to-none advantage in the series to just a one-game lead.
But the Lightning are still in the driver’s seat. They only have to win one more game and play the next match on home ice, where they owned the league’s best record (32-8-1) during the regular season.
For inspiration, the Bolts need only to look to their opponent.
In the First Round, Montreal raced out to a 3-0 lead against the Ottawa Senators and were on the verge of sweeping. But Ottawa snuck away with a 1-0 win in Game 4, and then, with the Habs looking to close out the series at the Bell Centre, the Sens routed them 5-1 in Game 5 to send the series back to Ottawa.
Montreal scored early in Game 6 and made the 1-0 lead stand throughout, benefitting from a dubious no-goal ruling on what looked to be the game-tying goal in the second period.
The point is, it doesn’t matter how the series got to 3-2. The Lightning are still up a game with two chances to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
If you’re a Lightning fan (and you presumably are because you’re reading this), you have to like those odds.
“At the start of the series had you told us we’d be up 3-2 with a chance to clinch the series in our building in Game 6, everybody would have taken that,” Matt Carle said.
2. GREASY GOALS
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper spoke frequently this season about wanting his team to go to the dirty areas and produce greasy goals, those scores that come off a rebound or a deflection in front of the net.
In the first two games of the Montreal series, the Lightning were able to get a pair. Tyler Johnson’s deflection of Matt Carle’s wrist shot opened scoring in Game 1 and led to a 2-1 double overtime victory. In Game 2, J.T. Brown popped Valtteri Filppula’s wrist shot up and over Habs goalie Carey Price on the edge of the blue paint for the final goal in a 6-2 blowout.
The Lightning got away from that strategy in Games 3 and 4 and their offense suffered as a result. Shots from the point led to rebound opportunities, but nobody was there to take advantage. Routinely, it was one and done for the Lightning on their trips into the Montreal zone.
In Game 5, that trend continued until late in the second period and into the third with the Lightning in search of the game-tying goal.
Steven Stamkos, who has struggled to find the back of the net during the postseason, got into the slot and backed his defender down to get position. As Anton Stralman wheeled around Brandon Prust to send a shot through traffic onto goal, Stamkos saw the rebound loose in front and slammed it home.
The Lightning were the top scoring team in the NHL during the regular season, scoring 259 total goals.
A lot of those goals were of the greasy variety, a result of the not-so-glamorous work that doesn’t make the highlight reel but more often than not leads to wins.
The Bolts need to rediscover that willingness to mix it up in the dirty areas if they want to close out the Canadiens in Game 6 or Game 7.
3. 20-MINUTE GAME
The Lightning played some of their best hockey over the final period of Saturday’s Game 5. Trailing 1-0 entering the third, Stamkos provided a lift by tying the score midway through the period, and the Lightning continued to keep the pressure on Price’s goal.
Unfortunately, it was a case of too little, too late for the Bolts.
Montreal was the better team over the first two periods and were rewarded with the victory. The Habs could have easily been up by three or four going into the third period. They hit the post three times in the second period alone, and a once anemic Montreal power play suddenly looked like one of the league’s more dangerous units during a pair of man-advantage opportunities.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Bishop said. “We knew these guys weren’t going to roll over. We didn’t play our best game (in Game 4). We played a little better (in Game 5). We didn’t play a full 60 minutes, and when you don’t play a full 60 minutes, we turned it on there in the third but a little too late…You just kind of turn the page here, enjoy a couple days off and get ready.”
If the Lightning can carry over their play from their third period into Tuesday’s Game 6 at Amalie Arena, it will go a long way in helping them close out the pesky Canadiens.
“We used our speed. We used the width of the ice. We played a 200-foot game,” Victor Hedman said of the third. “That’s when we were at our best. We’ve got to keep doing that to be successful in the next one.”