MONTREAL -- When Nikita Kucherov had an apparent goal waved off during the first overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was understandably upset.
Luckily for him, the Lightning recovered much quicker than they did a year ago.
"We didn't care. Honestly," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "The next shift we just went about our business, played as we should. It didn't affect us in a negative way, which is good."
Kucherov scored the winning goal at 2:06 of the second overtime, giving the Lightning a 2-1 win and a 1-0 lead in this year's best-of-7 series.
In last year's first-round series against Montreal, the Lightning had a 2-1 lead in Game 3 that was taken away because Ryan Callahan's apparent goal was waved off after Alex Killorn was judged to have interfered with Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Less than three minutes later, the Canadiens took a 2-1 lead, won 3-2, and held a 3-0 lead in the series. They swept the Lightning two days later, and the thought of that disallowed goal lingered all summer in Tampa.
When Cooper walked into his pregame press conference Friday, the first words out of his mouth were, "Back at the scene of the crime."
It was not the first time Cooper made that kind of a reference to that disallowed goal.
On the Lightning's first trip back to Bell Centre this season, Cooper joked that he looked out at the rink to check if there was still yellow police tape around the net.
Reactions like Stralman's are why he was brought to the Lightning. Not really the answer, but the actual execution of the answer in the heat of the moment. Cooper spoke earlier Friday about how veterans Stralman, Brian Boyle and Braydon Coburn have brought a sense of calm to the Lightning dressing room.
There was no greater example than when the Kucherov goal was waved off.
"Let's go tale of two games," Cooper said. "You think last year, what happened with the Callahan-Killorn situation and the goal disallowed, we didn't come back from that until late in the game. That clearly had an effect on our team. Whereas this one didn't really affect our team. It was actually talked about. The same end of the ice. The same net. But that's the difference. It was a little bit of shellshock last year, whereas tonight it was just another play in the hockey game."
While Cooper is going "tale of two games," let's also go tale of two teams.
A year after Cooper came to the same Bell Centre podium to address the media about a missed call, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did the same thing Friday.
In his first answer, Therrien pointed out that on Kucherov's winning goal in double overtime, the Lightning were clearly offside on the zone entry.
Replays suggest Therrien was right; Valtteri Filppula entered the Canadiens zone before Boyle carried the puck over the blue line.
"It's really frustrating losing a game on an offside," Therrien said. "Those things are not supposed to happen. I thought our players, our team, [had] a great effort. You can't ask for a better effort. But to lose a game because of an offside? It's not like a penalty. A penalty's always a judgment call, so you can always question the judgment, and there's nothing you can do. But an offside is black or white. And it was clearly an offside. End up losing the game."
The play was offside, but 12 seconds passed between the missed call and Kucherov's goal, which came after Boyle held the puck deep in the Montreal zone and lost it to rookie Canadiens defenseman Greg Pateryn, who in turn lost it to Filppula.
Filppula spun and found Kucherov in the slot, and Kucherov beat Price with a low shot to the glove side.
Written in large, capital letters in the Canadiens dressing room are the words "NO EXCUSES." They have been there ever since Therrien became coach in 2012, and they were put there by him.
Frustration is understandable when there's a missed call. But they happen. All the time. The Canadiens still had ample time to recover and get that puck out of the zone, but they didn't.
Therrien and his players were all extremely pleased with how they played Game 1 against Tampa Bay, which has defeated Montreal six straight times. That's what made the missed call more frustrating, but it's also something that will show how the Canadiens handle adversity.
Much like the Lightning last year, the risk of that missed call lingering in the Canadiens' minds is high, and Game 2 on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) is now a crucial one.
The Lightning proved Friday they have grown, that they were able to mentally overcome a perceived slight to focus on what was important.
The Canadiens will have to prove the same thing Sunday.
Author: Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com