Following a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 at Amerant Bank Arena Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning will take the ice Thursday night for Game 3 at AMALIE Arena trailing the Florida Panthers 2-0 in the series.

But the Bolts have been here before. On the run to a third-straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2022, Tampa Bay faced off with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final and dropped Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden before returning home and rattling off four straight wins to take the series in six games.

Victor Hedman was a big part of that result. The veteran defenseman was the Lightning’s leader in ice time during the Eastern Conference Final, averaging 23:31 time on ice per game over the six-game span. He also added four points, the fourth-most among all Tampa Bay skaters and the most among all defensemen on the team.

“It’s obviously not the ideal situation down 2-0, but like you said, we’ve been in this situation before,” Hedman told the media Wednesday morning. “For us that were here for that, we kind of have to relay that message to the other guys. It’s never over until it’s over and that’s the bottom line. It’s game by game.

“For us, it’s all about tomorrow. Don’t look too far ahead, learn from what happened the last two games and just look forward.

“Last night was a tough pill to swallow, but at the end of the day, today’s a new day and tomorrow is a new gameday, so we’re excited about that. We’re excited about coming home and playing in front of our fans. Just excited to go out there and play tomorrow.”

The Bolts have performed very well on home ice over the past several years in the postseason. Since the start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tampa Bay has posted a 17-9 record on home ice and outscored its opponents 92-55 in the process.

“There’s confidence in our group,” said Hedman. “It’s not ideal to be down 2-0, but that’s the cards we’ve been dealt. That’s how it is right now.

“We’re playing a great team that obviously took care of home ice. Now, we’ve got to go home and do the same thing.

“It’s very important for us not to look too far ahead. Just focus on the game tomorrow and make sure we get the job done.”

A big reason for the success on home ice has been having Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. Vasilevskiy has started all 26 of those home playoff games since 2021, boasting a .934 save percentage and 1.96 goals against average with five shutouts during that span.

Vasilevskiy has been excellent over the first two games of this year’s postseason. Despite the 0-2 record, the star goaltender has a .922 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average.

On the other end of the ice, Sergei Bobrovsky has been very impressive as well, posting a 2-0 record with a .905 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. The 35-year-old netminder had the save of the playoffs, if not the entire season, when he robbed Matt Dumba of the go-ahead goal in the second period of Game 2. 

“It’s great goaltending,” Hedman said. “We knew that going into this series. We’ve got to get to their goalie just as much as they try to get to Vasy. I think we’ve done a good job.

“Obviously, you’re going to look at the highlight reel and see that save in the second period. But at the end of the day, we knew how good he is. It’s been two great goaltenders so far this series. After that save, Vasy made some unbelievable saves in the second period to keep it a tie game.

“Elite goaltending. We’ll need more of that going forward from our side and hopefully we can get to their goalie a little bit more.”

With the top-end talent between the two goaltenders in this series, getting traffic in front of Bobrovsky will surely be a point of emphasis for the Lightning going into Game 3. But along with that traffic, the Bolts have to find a way to get more pucks on net. Tampa Bay has recorded 110 shot attempts through the first two contests of the series, but only 42 have resulted in a shot on goal.

“That’s one of those things,” Hedman explained. “It’s never a bad shot to create those scrambles. You look at our first goal. A good example of shots to the net that get tipped.

“For us, you’ve got to get those goals. It’s not going to be the pretty goals every single time. We’ve got to get more pucks to the net, myself included. That’s probably going to be a big emphasis going into the game tomorrow.”

After arriving in Tampa around 1:30 Wednesday morning, the Bolts will take the day to rest and recover, both physically and mentally, ahead of a crucial Game 3 Thursday night.

“We’ve been on the ice five straight days and played two hard games,” Hedman said. “I think it’s good for the mindset. We’re obviously in it for the long run. You’ve got to rest your body and you’ve got to rest your mind to get a reset.

“But I don’t think guys are going to be home and lose focus on what’s ahead. That’s still in the back of our minds and how we can make things better tomorrow. Just because we have an off day doesn’t mean you’re not focusing on tomorrow.”

In the playoffs, the margin for error is razor thin. It’s a chase for the Stanley Cup between the best 16 teams in the league. For the Lightning, it’s just about finding a way to do a little bit more and get that first win of the series.

Brandon Hagel was there in 2022 when the Bolts took down the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. Despite being in a 2-0 hole, he knows the series is far from over.

“It's not easy because, like I said, I think we're playing some pretty good hockey in here,” Hagel explained Wednesday morning. “But pretty good is not going to be good enough. Getting a win is good enough at this point in the series.

“You’ve got to go in and still have belief and come into that Game 3 knowing that this thing is far from over. It comes down to really the group in the room and the belief and the want and the will from here on out, because good enough isn't good anymore. It's getting a win, moving on to the next game and we're right there.

“It's not like the games are out of hand and we have no chance. It's hard. We're right there. Both games could have went both ways and ended up going their way.

“We can't look back at that. We’ve got to find the positives. Good enough won't work anymore. It's got to be a win.”