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Pregame Notebook: Bolts look to close out Habs in Game 5

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were the only team in the NHL not to lose three consecutive games.

That consistency has carried over into the postseason, where the Lightning have yet to drop back-to-back contests.

For Montreal to rally from a three-games-to-none deficit and beat Tampa Bay in the teams’ Second Round series, the Canadiens would have to win four-in-a-row, a tall task against a Lightning squad that has rebounded well all season after losses.

“We’re a resilient bunch,” Bolts captain Steven Stamkos said. “I think we realize what we do when we do have a bad game. We fix things pretty quickly. We watch it on the video and we hold ourselves accountable. I think that’s been a reason why even all year avoid those long losing streaks.”

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said his team has had a mindset all season to avoid letting losses pile up. On nine separate occasions in the regular season, the Bolts went into a game on a two-game losing skid, and they emerged with a victory each time

“Probably comes down to a little bit of leadership, a little bit of veteran mentality in the room,” Cooper said. “Ultimately, I think we have a pretty good team, so we’ve been able to weather that…Guys dug their heels in anytime (consecutive losses) happened. It became a big focus for our team, and the good thing about that is it’s also carried out in the playoffs. So, if you come out after a loss, we usually give a pretty good effort after a loss and it’s just been our mindset all year.”

With that in mind, the Lightning are looking forward to returning to the ice for tonight’s Game 5 at the Bell Centre and erasing a forgettable performance in Thursday’s Game 4 in which the Canadiens opened up a 5-0 lead and won 6-2 for their first victory of the series.

“That could have been one of our worst games we’ve played in a long time, just little stupid mistakes, not giving our goaltender a chance, turning pucks over, not playing the way that we want to,” Stamkos said. “When we try to get into that type of game, we’ve shown that we get beat pretty easily because we don’t stick to that structure. We’ll get back to (our structure) tonight.”

STAMKOS SHUT OUT

All-Star center Steven Stamkos led the Lightning in shots during the regular season (268) but didn’t have a shot in either Games 3 or 4 at Amalie Arena. Cooper said Stamkos continues to do the little things to help the Lightning win games, and it’s only a matter of time before his offensive production comes back around.

“Steven’s a big player for us, and as a coach, I’ve got to find more ways to put him in situations to succeed and he’s got to find ways to put himself in situations to succeed,” Cooper said. “It’s a rarity he goes two games without a shot. But, as I’ve said before, Stammer’s done a lot of great things for us. It’s just, there’s such a spotlight on him to score, I think alarms go off, and they shouldn’t because he’s been a heck of a player for us.”

Stamkos ended an eight-game playoff goal drought with his breakaway goal to give the Lightning their first lead in a Game 2 rout of Montreal. Stamkos continues to pace the Bolts in assists during the playoffs with seven, and he’s on a three-game point streak (1 goal, 4 assists) entering tonight’s potential series-clinching Game 5.

But the lack of shots and goals has been a major topic among the press covering the Tampa Bay-Montreal series.

“Obviously, I would like to get some more opportunities (to shoot),” Stamkos said. “You’ve got to put yourself in a position, but we’ve obviously still found ways to win games. That’s what’s important at this time of the year. I don’t think it’s for lack of effort or anything like that.”

Asked if he’s frustrated with his inability to get going offensively, Stamkos replied to the contrary.

“Not frustrated at all. I’m excited,” he said. “We’re up 3-1 in the Second Round of the playoffs, so this is what it’s about this time of year is to win. Definitely the furthest thing from frustration at this point for me. I’m excited about the opportunity to come into each game and try to help our team win.”

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

The Lightning were just 18-16-7 on the road this season, but during the playoffs, the Bolts have improved to 4-1 in games away from Amalie Arena.

Since falling 3-0 in Game 3 during the Detroit series, the Lightning have won four straight on the road, including two consecutive games in Montreal to open the Second Round.

“During the regular season, I didn’t feel like we changed our game or anything like that compared to what we’re doing now,” Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. “It’s just we’ve been getting the results on the road a little bit more this playoffs. I guess that’s a good thing.”

The Lightning are the only team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to have won four road games. The Bolts trail only Anaheim (17) for most road goals during the postseason with 16 and own a league-best plus-six goal differential on the road.

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