The Tampa Bay Lightning need to return to playing desperate hockey in Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
That was the assessment of Lightning forward Alex Killorn following Wednesday’s practice session at Joe Louis Arena. The Lightning were in survival mode during Game 2 knowing that a second-straight loss at home and falling in a 0-2 hole would be a difficult proposition to overcome.
The result was a 5-1 victory and one of the best games the Lightning have played all season.
They’ll try to recapture that nothing-to-lose mindset trailing 2-1 in the First Round series and in danger of heading back to Tampa down 3-1 with another loss on Thursday.
“You’ve just got to realize what’s on the line,” Killorn said. “We’re fighting for our lives right now. I think we had that kind of mentality in Game 2. When adversity came our way, we were going to go through it. We’ve got to get back to that for sure.”
The Lightning came out swinging from the opening puck drop of Game 2, literally. There were numerous dustups during the first few minutes of the game, which came to a head when Brian Boyle and Danny DeKeyser got involved in an altercation while Steven Stamkos grabbed Kyle Quincey and put him in a headlock to the delight of the Amalie Arena crowd.
The aggression served the Bolts well, Tyler Johnson scoring the first goal soon after en route to a dominating performance. Conversely, the Lightning started Game 3 passively and were forced to play from behind nearly the whole way as a result.
“It seemed like we weren’t prepared as well as we should have been,” Killorn said. “We weathered the storm, that first 10 minutes we weathered it, but we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to realize they’re going to have a little bit of a push, but we’ve got to give a push back instead of just taking it.”
Tuesday was the first of the three games where the Lightning were outhit, Detroit muscling its way to a 48-26 advantage in that statistical category.
“We’ve got to know the line between being physical and I guess taking it too far, but at the same time, we don’t want to change too much from what we’ve done in Game 1 and Game 2,” Lightning forward J.T. Brown said. “Obviously, there are different things we would have liked to done in Game 3, but if we can get back to what we did in the first two games, I think we’ll be alright here.”
The Lightning practiced with renewed purpose on Wednesday, eager to put Tuesday’s performance behind them.
Killorn said the afternoon session was one of the better ones all season.
“I think Monday our practice for Tuesday’s game wasn’t great,” he said. “We had a day off (Sunday), and it wasn’t a good practice. I think today we were really sharp, we were really focused and hopefully that leads into tomorrow.”
The Lightning’s energy level underscored the Bolts sense of urgency after falling behind in the series again.
“The next game’s important for us, so I think coming into today’s practice, we wanted to make sure everything was crisp and make sure we’re all on the same page talking and being together,” Brown said.
SPECIAL TEAMS IMPACT
After dazzling in with two goals in Game 2, the Lightning’s up-and-down power play fizzled again three days later, going 0-for-6 while wasting a five-on-three opportunity that lasted over a minute.
For Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper, it’s simple: in games the Lightning have lost the special teams battle, they’ve lost on the scoreboard as well.
The lone time the Bolts outplayed Detroit on special teams, they got a win.
“Special teams goals have an impact,” Cooper said. “You look at Game 2, what was that 2-0 for us? We ended up winning the game. So you kind of do that math, you’re looking at how these wins are chalking up, special teams do matter.”
GAME 4 LINEUP
Cooper said he didn’t foresee any changes to the lineup for Thursday’s Game 4, meaning forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Mark Barberio will again sit. Drouin and Barberio have yet to play in the First Round series.
As for Jason Garrison, out since getting checked hard into the boards March 28 by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, Cooper said he had no update on the injured defenseman.
Garrison continues to perform all drills during training sessions with the Lightning but is still a couple more days away from being ready to return to the lineup.