The Tampa Bay Lightning feel Friday’s game two against the Montreal Canadiens is a critical juncture in its postseason campaign, but it is looking at it as an end-all, be all.
“If this was Game Four and we were down three games, I’d consider that a must win,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “But this is one we really need.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos reinforced that a victory would be significant, and added what is at stake if they drop another contest at home.
“You don’t want to go into a venue like Montreal down two games,” Stamkos said. “We realize the importance of this game, but by no means is ‘panic’ a word we’ve used over the last day or two.”
While the Bolts proclaimed before Game One that their previous experience, even if for some it was just in the minors, made them prepared as ever for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is no doubt that nervousness and the gitters played a role in game one.
The bigger question will be if the young Lightning lineup can get accustom to the intensity before it is too late. Stamkos even admitted in his first postseason in 2011 that “it took a few playoff games to adjust.”
Tampa Bay feels that after Thursday’s practice it can, despite the short turnaround.
“You still have to make the plays you made in the first 82 games of the year,” Stamkos said. “We have to be more composed. That’s probably a word we’ve used in the last couple days – be confident in your abilities, be confident in the way we’ve won games in the course of the year.”
That confidence is what helped the Lightning win three out of four games versus the Canadiens in the regular season and can help it take back control in this best-of-seven series.
PALAT “PROBABLY OUT”
Ondrej Palat did not participate in the Lightning’s optional morning skate Thursday. Cooper said he is a game-time decision for Game Two, but that he was "probably out.”
“We’re missing a guy who led our team in scoring and is a big part of special teams,” Cooper said. “It’s a big hole for us, but we’we've dealt with this stuff before.”
One way the Lightning quickly filled Palat’s void Wednesday was by adding forward Alex Killorn to the first line. Killorn played with Steven Stamkos before he was injured at the beginning of the year.
“Killorn has the ability to play with everybody,” Cooper said.
With the instant chemistry that unfolded between he and his new linemates, including factoring in on two game-tying goals, Killorn is expected to play with Tyler Johnson and Stamkos again in game two.
OTHER ODDS ‘N ENDS
Anders Lindback is expected to start for the Bolts Friday.
With the chance of Palat playing unlikely, look for either Andrej Sustr, Tom Pyatt or both to take warm-ups. At least one of them could be in the lineup tonight.
Teams that win Game 1 win the series 68.7 percent of the time.