Following a dismal home performance in Game 5 of their First Round series against Detroit, the Tampa Bay Lightning put together one of their finest games of the postseason in Game 6, walking back from the brink of elimination in front of a raucous Detroit crowd to win 5-2 and eventually take the series four-games-to-three.
That theme has been repeated often this season for Tampa Bay: lose a game in which it was thoroughly outplayed and return to the ice next time out to redeem itself.
Game 5 on Saturday in Montreal gives the Lightning another opportunity to atone for their mistakes from the previous outing.
“If you look at that game, Game 3, we didn’t deserve to win that way, and quite frankly, we deserved the beating we got last night,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. “We need to regroup, make sure we stay on top of things and make sure we figure this out.”
The Lightning need to get back to their speed and transition game to regain control of the series Ryan Callahan said.
“I think there are some things we can clean up in the defensive zone,” he said. “I think we’re at our best is when we’re playing fast and moving the puck up ice and we’re attacking the other team. I don’t think there’s been enough of that in our last couple of games here, and we’ve got to get back to it.”
Giving up too many shots is another weakness that has crept into the Bolts’ game during the Second Round series. Montreal has outshot the Lightning in all four games so far and enjoyed a 40-24 advantage, its biggest of the series, in Game 4.
“The one thing that happened last night was that the shots we gave up were too good of chances,” Stralman said. “Lots of odd-man rushes, breakaways, those are the plays that are definitely going to hurt you, and we need to smarten up on that point.”
WIN NO. 4
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper reiterated on Friday before the Lightning departed for Montreal that his team is in a new position currently.
The Lightning are made up of a majority of players without a lot of playoff experience. Thirteen players hadn’t even experienced a win until the current postseason.
With that in mind, finding a way to get the fourth and final victory against a good Montreal team is going to be a challenge for the Lightning.
“We know we have more in us,” Cooper said. “We’ve played well in their building before. We know their team well. They know us well. We just have to go out and execute. Nobody expected this series to be done in four. It’s a race to four. We’ve still got to get one more. We’ve got a confident group. We’ve got confidence in ourselves. We’ve proven to overcome. When things haven’t gone our way in games, we’ve rebounded from that.”
The Lightning are facing a Canadiens team with nothing to lose after falling behind three-games-to-none.
“(The fourth win) is definitely the hardest win to get,” Callahan said. “The other team is very desperate. Their season’s on the line, and it’s key to match that desperation and make sure you come ready to play.”
The Lightning had done an excellent job shutting down Montreal’s offensive attack to build a 3-0 series lead.
Through the first three games, the Bolts allowed only four goals.
Since the playoffs started, the Lightning defensive unit had only give up more than three goals on one occasion.
Montreal, however, exposed a number of deficiencies in the Bolts’ back line to score six goals on Thursday.
“We were just way too loose defensively,” Cooper said. Last night we were thinking about the wrong net, and we’ve got to start thinking more about our net. We’ve been based on defense this whole postseason. We’ve been great back there. Just the amount of shots, the scoring chances we gave up last night, that’s not our game.”
Montreal scored four even-strength goals on Wednesday and owns an 8-6 advantage in even-strength goals for the series.
“We’ve been a pretty good defensive team, especially in the playoffs,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to get back to that or we’re going to make this a longer series if we don’t start thinking about our own net.”